Lindsay M. Schoeneberger

According to this worldatlas.com report, Pennsylvania has the fifth highest percentage of residents over the age of 65. As the Pennsylvanian population ages, senior citizens face a myriad of issues they may not have thought of or planned for such as living longer than their retirement, increasing health insurance costs, being the target of scammers looking for some quick cash, needing help with their finances and health care decisions, and navigating the confusing world of Social Security and Medicare.

The Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA) recently released “A Guide to Legal Issues for Pennsylvania Senior Citizens.”  In an effort to ensure this guide is made available to anyone who may benefit from it, the PBA provides this information free of charge and did not copyright the documents. Continue Reading Legal Issues for Senior Citizens- A Guide

In the world of you just can’t make this stuff up, a woman recently swallowed over $7,000 in cash to keep it from her husband.  Apparently she had been saving for a vacation to Panama and was concerned that her husband would take it during a recent dispute.

There are several ways this woman could have protected those assets rather than swallowing them.  The most obvious answer would be a bank account in her name only.  While the couple is married and the money, if earned during the marriage, would be considered marital property in Pennsylvania in the event of a divorce, it would have been protected from him squandering it or taking it from her.  If she was so concerned about him taking her money, a prenuptial agreement prior to marriage could have protected the entire sum and then some.  If this distrust of her husband is a new development, she may want to speak with an attorney about her rights and how to protect this money.

Swallowing any sum of money is not a good idea.  It does make others question one’s capacity.  Perhaps a guardian may need to be appointed to protect her assets.  According to doctors, $5,700 was recovered from the woman during emergency surgery.  Which begs the question- what happened to the rest of the money?

Lindsay Schoeneberger is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She received her law degree from Widener University School of Law and practices in a variety of areas including Family Law.

This is Part 3 of a series of posts analyzing the legal issues in the hit podcast S-Town, produced by the creators of Serial and This American Life. For more background, check out the introduction to the series. Although the events in S-Town occur in Alabama, for the purposes of this series, the legal analysis will be based on general principles of law and Pennsylvania law, since we’re Pennsylvania lawyers.

 SPOILER ALERT! If you haven’t listened to the series yet and want to avoid spoilers, proceed beyond this point with caution.

Prior to John B.’s death, he tells host and producer, Brian Reed that Tyler Goodson and his brother Jake Goodson are each going to receive some gold when he dies.  He makes various other promises throughout his recorded interviews with Brian about someone getting something when he died.  John also had an elaborate suicide note that he kept on his computer.  He even showed it to Brian during one of their times together.  Surely with such planning, most people would assume John made a Will to ensure his final wishes were carried out.  Unfortunately, once John is dead, no Will is ever found. Continue Reading Legal Lessons from Hit Podcast, S-Town – Part 3: Will

Back in 2015, I wrote a blog post asking “Is Co-Parenting Possible?”  The article highlighted one family’s path to co-parenting.  Slowly, I’ve begun to see more and more success stories about co-parenting.

Recently Lancaster Online featured a story about a local family that has decided that co-parenting is in their daughter’s best interest.  For the Hawkeys of Lancaster and Bankerts of York, co-parenting wasn’t always easy.  They struggled at the beginning, simply going through custody exchanges without much interaction.  But recently they realized they needed to do more for their daughter.  When a rare family dinner made their daughter so happy, they decided to do more.  In mid-March the family decided  to go on a co-parenting family vacation to Walt Disney World in Florida.

This is a great example that even if it takes a while for everyone to be in a place where they can work together, when they can, the children really benefit.  However, I will repeat my prior caveat – not all families can or should co-parent.  But when they can, it is remarkable what can happen.

Lindsay Schoeneberger is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She received her law degree from Widener University School of Law and practices in a variety of areas including Family Law.

This is Part 2 of a series of posts analyzing the legal issues in the hit podcast S-Town, produced by the creators of Serial and This American Life. For more background, check out the introduction to the series. Although the events in S-Town occur in Alabama, for the purposes of this series, the legal analysis will be based on general principles of law and Pennsylvania law, since we’re Pennsylvania lawyers.

SPOILER ALERT! If you haven’t listened to the series yet and want to avoid spoilers, proceed beyond this point with caution.

Chapter 3 picks up after the shocking end of Chapter 2, wherein the listener learns that John B. has killed himself.  It quickly becomes apparent that while John had talked about suicide for years, even keeping a lengthy suicide note on his computer, he did not plan to have his loved ones taken care of after his death.

John B. was the primary care taker for his mother, Mary Grace.  John led people to think she was suffering from some form of dementia, although an actual diagnosis is never given.  When John dies, someone had to care for Mary Grace.  There was a battle between Tyler Goodson, a younger friend and sometime employee of John and Rita and Charlie, cousins of John.  At first listen, Tyler seems to be the reasonable choice.  He knows Mary Grace well, seeing her almost daily.  He had been helping John B. around the property for years.  Tyler considered Mary Grace to be part of his family, even referring to her as Mama.  Rita and Charlie on the other hand, seem to appear out of nowhere and now want to take over Mary Grace’s care.  While the listener is given both sides of the story, it is never clear who has pure motives or who is trying to take advantage of Mary Grace.  Continue Reading Legal Lessons from Hit Podcast, S-Town – Part 2: Power of Attorney

As income tax season is quickly ramping up, I am commonly asked by clients which parent can claim the children as dependents when they are separated from the other parent. And like any good lawyer, I often say it depends.

So what exactly does it depend on? According to the Internal Revenue Service, in order to claim a child as a dependent he or she must be a qualifying child. Assuming your children are qualifying children, only one exemption can be claimed per qualifying child. The IRS has determined that the “custodial parent” gets the to claim the exemption. The IRS has its own definition of “custodial parent.” According to their regulations, a custodial parent is the parent with whom the child lived for the greater number of overnights in the calendar year. Continue Reading Tax season – Who Gets to Claim the Kids?

In a historic 2014 ruling, the U.S. District Court in Whitewood v. Wolf made same-sex marriage legal in Pennsylvania. This ruling, while finally allowing a sizable segment of the population the same legal freedoms heterosexual couples have always enjoyed created problems for some same-sex couples that had done their best to take care of one another in a pre-Whitewood world.

Prior to the legalization of same-sex marriage, it was not uncommon for same-sex couples to go through an adult adoption. This was the only method available to them to create a legal family unit. By one partner adopting the other, couples were able to enjoy some of the protections and benefits only available to families. One of those benefits was a reduction of inheritance taxes. Prior to the Whitewood ruling, when one partner of a same-sex couple died, the other partner would have to pay 15% inheritance tax because the surviving partner was simply viewed as “other heir” under the tax code. Imagine paying 15% tax on assets you helped acquire during your relationship, while married heterosexual couples were taxed at 0% on the same inheritance. By adopting one’s partner, same-sex couples created a legally recognized family unit and reduced inheritance to the 4.5% of lineal heirs. While a vast improvement, the solution was far from perfect. Continue Reading Legalization of Same-sex Marriages in Pennsylvania Causing Adoption Reversals

As the supplies of candy dwindle in our homes from the Halloween harvest, our attention turns to the day of giving thanks. After running across Affinity Consulting’s awesome annual collection of Tech for Which We Are Thankful, I was inspired to survey our blog’s authors for their tech favorites. Here is some of the tech we are grateful for (and yes, we have lots of tech here in the heart of Lancaster’s farm country): Continue Reading “Techsgiving” in Lancaster County: The Tech We Are THANKFUL for is…

There are a lot of misconceptions and different definitions for a Notary.  In drafting this blog post I found several different definitions, including one from Google that says a Notary is “a person authorized to perform certain legal formalities, especially to draw up contracts, deeds, and other documents for use in other jurisdictions.”  Wikipedia says “[a] Notary is a lawyer (except most of the United States).”  Neither of these are true in Pennsylvania.  So what is a Notary?  Why do you want something notarized? Continue Reading What is a Notary?

For the first time in well over two decades, the divorce process in Pennsylvania could be getting a major face lift.  Modern divorce as we know it came to Pennsylvania in 1980 when the legislature established a means through which a couple could divorce without one spouse being assigned fault or institutionalized.  A divorce can now also be obtained through consent, or irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.  When both parties consent and agree to the economic issues, a divorce can be obtained in a few short months.  Originally, in 1980, if one of the parties did not agree the marriage was over, the parties had to be separated for three years prior to obtaining a divorce.  In 1988 it was shortened to two years, which is where it currently stands.  When one party is unwilling to consent to the divorce, the two years can seem to move at a glacial pace.  Granted, I have seen some couples reunite during this two year waiting period, however, it is rarely after year one.  House Bill 380 was recently introduced proposing that the two year waiting period be reduced to one.  The bill passed a full House vote 191-6 and is now on its way to the Senate.  If this bill passes, it will put Pennsylvania in line with its neighboring states, all of which have shorter waiting periods.

One side note, while divorces through a finding of fault or institutionalization are rarely seen, both are still on the books and are an available remedy for those rare instances where a divorce through consent or irretrievable breakdown will not work.  Personally, I have dealt with one case where a divorce was obtained through a finding of fault and that is more than many family law attorneys will ever see.

Lindsay Schoeneberger is an attorney at Russell, Krafft and Gruber, LLP in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She received her law degree from Widener University School of Law and practices in a variety of areas including Family Law.