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College Bound? Get Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy for your student!

Author: Linda Grear

August 14th, 2014

If you have children getting ready for college, you should consider having them prepare Durable General Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy documents.

From a practical perspective, you may be paying your child’s tuition and housing expenses, as well as covering him/her as a dependent on your health insurance; however, in the eyes of the law, a child is a legal adult at the age of 18 years and is entitled to privacy protections for financial and health care matters.

Under federal privacy rules (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act known as “HIPPA”) medical providers such as doctors, nurses, and hospital staff cannot speak with you regarding an adult patient’s medical condition without the patient’s consent.  In other words, if your child gets sick and requires medical care, medical information cannot be disclosed to you, even though you are the parent, with proper legal authority.

In the event of a medical emergency, parents may want to assure that they have legal authority to get information from their child’s medical providers.  A Health Care Proxy is a legal document that allows a patient to designate an agent to make health care decisions in the event they are unable to speak for themselves.  Additionally, the document may contain a HIPPA authorization to allow doctors and medical providers to release medical information.

A Durable Power of Attorney is a legal document that appoints an agent to handle personal financial matters and obtain financial information.  There are situations where a Power of Attorney would be useful to collect financial aid or student loan checks payable to the student, handle issues related to financial assistance, and bill paying.  This may be particularly helpful if your student is studying abroad.  If your child runs into issues with his/her passport or the authorities in another country, you can have the authority to help.

Your child may be hesitant to give up privacy rights and may only want you to have access on a need-to-know basis. A family meeting to discuss the pros and cons may be helpful, but, ultimately your child’s decision.  Before your child heads off to college this Fall, sit down and create a plan for handling medical emergencies and other unexpected obstacles.  It will give both parent and child peace of mind.

If you have any questions about the above material, or wish to speak to attorney, please contact HoganWillig, Attorneys at Law at (716)636-7600 or visit www.hoganwillig.com. HoganWillig’s main office is located at 2410 North Forest Road in Amherst, New York with additional offices in Lockport, Lancaster and Buffalo.

2014 Super Lawyers Announced

Author: Hogan Willig

August 11th, 2014

HoganWillig is please to announce that the attorneys Corey J. Hogan, Diane R. Tiveron, Steven M. Cohen, Nelson F. Zakia, Thomas R. Cassano, J. Michael Kelleher, Kenneth A. Olena, Steven G. Wiseman, Elizabeth M. DiPirro and Kevin S. Mahoney have been selected to the 2014 New York State Super Lawyers list. Each year, no more than five percent of the lawyers in the state are selected by the research team at Super Lawyers to receive this honor.

Also listed as Rising Stars were Michael J. Colletta, Geffrey Gismondi, Amanda J. Kelly, Katherine V. Markel and Ashlea L. Palladino.

Super Lawyers, a Thomson Reuters business, is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The annual selections are made using a patented multiphase process that includes a statewide survey of lawyers, an independent research evaluation of candidates and peer reviews by practice area. The result is a credible, comprehensive and diverse listing of exceptional attorneys.

The Super Lawyers lists are published nationwide in Super Lawyers Magazines and in leading city and regional magazines and newspapers across the country. Super Lawyers Magazines also feature editorial profiles of attorneys who embody excellence in the practice of law. For more information about Super Lawyers, visit SuperLawyers.com.

Smart Home may not be such a smart choice

Author: Krystal Chapin

August 10th, 2014

In an era where getting the latest and greatest technology is of utmost importance, we must be conscientious to step back and analyze the implications of living life in such a way. Technology can and has undoubtedly allowed our world to make major advances in almost every field of study. Nevertheless, our technology-driven world can also have security consequences that can affect each of us. The most common place technology introduces itself is inside our homes; our supposed “safe place”. But just how safe is it?

Smart technology has evolved to let users control a number of functions remotely from a computer, tablet, or smart phone. It is typical for the connection to be made via the internet, which is often not secured. An unsecured connection allows not only your personal information to be accessible, but also opens the door for a potential hacker to steal your valuables and even your bank account. Many use the latest applications (apps) to do simple tasks such as turn on lights or adjust the thermostat, but are also able to perform security measures such as turning on the alarm system or checking a bank account, with the simple push of a button. These great conveniences can make individuals extremely vulnerable. It is easy to unknowingly trade security for convenience while using these applications.

This is not intended to dissuade people from using technology, but rather to urge safe practice when using these great advances. The Target scandal of 2013, where millions of customer’s credit cards pins were stolen, provides a cautionary tale. If it can happen to a large scale corporation that employs thousands to provide security, it can happen to you.

However, there are measures that consumers can take to make themselves less vulnerable to these security intrusions. It is in the best interest of those who employ many smart devices around their home to hire a computer technician to configure a network that is different from the one used by personal computers. This network can then be setup to only communicate with the smart devices through an encrypted virtual private network (VPN). For around a $75 dollar fee and an hour of their time, an individual can save themselves from the slew of headaches that can be the result of a hacker. A simple step that everyone can preemptively take is to make passwords longer and more complex. To do this successfully, a password should be 10 to 15 characters long, use capital and lower case letters, and include numbers as well as a special character (.!?&* etc.) This simple step can resonate through all online activity to constantly keep you safe from the smart world we live in.

Refinancing: A Smart Move

Author: Krystal Chapin

August 7th, 2014

Should I refinance my mortgage? This is a question many people ask. Luckily, there are a number of reasons why refinancing may be a smart financial move.

Refinancing a mortgage means paying off an existing loan and replacing it with a new one. The most common reason a person may look to refinance is to get a lower mortgage rate. It is important to pay attention to the current average rates in order to get the lowest rate possible. A homeowner may also refinance in order to shorten the term of their mortgage or convert from an adjustable-rate mortgage to a fixed-rate mortgage, or vice-versa. It is wise to consider refinancing a mortgage now, while the interest rates are near record lows.

A refinance is also a way to get cash in your pocket. This can be done by getting a mortgage on a paid-off house. Although this isn’t technically a refinance, it’s a similar idea. This is a great option for individuals who are mortgage-free and have thought about purchasing a second home, an investment property, or starting a business. This way, they can cash out their first home and use the money to fund a larger purchase.

When used carefully, a refi can be a valuable tool to consolidate debt. Cash-out refis have dwindled since the housing bust began, however there are still a few. Many use these funds to pay off credit cards, lower overall debt service, and save money.

Some homeowners also decide to refinance in order to consolidate two mortgages.  The most common situation is to combine the first mortgage with the home equity line of credit. Although some home equity lines of credit often have low rates, many people want to refinance to get rid of them in fear the rate may jump to a greater percentage a few years down the road.

Lastly, refinancing may be a viable option for an individual attempting to address family matters. Divorces tend to lead to refis often as a means of removing the absent spouse from the note; thus, the other party is no longer legally responsible for the loan payments. Using a full service law firm like HoganWillig is a benefit in such a situation where a marital case and a real estate transaction are taking place simultaneously, because they can both be handled under one roof.

New Legislation Protects Unpaid Interns in New York State from Discrimination

August 4th, 2014

Last week, New York State became the fourth jurisdiction to outlaw discriminatory employment practices against internship applicants and unpaid interns.  By amending New York Human Rights Law, the Act, signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo, prevents employers from harassing, discriminating, and retaliating against interns, even if their positions are unpaid.

The new legislation is the result of a 2013 case in which federal District Judge Kevin Castel dismissed an unpaid intern’s sexual harassment claim, on the grounds that the state’s anti-discrimination statues only extend coverage to employees who receive compensation. Following this decision, State Senator Liz Krueger introduced the bill, which gives interns the same legal protection from employment discrimination and harassment as paid employees.  Effective immediately, employers cannot discriminate against interns during the hiring process or throughout the course of employment, based on the interns’ age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, military status, sex, disability, predisposing genetic characteristics, marital status, domestic violence victim status, or pregnancy.  New York State is the fourth jurisdiction to extend this type of protection to unpaid interns, joining Oregon, Washington D.C., and New York City.

While the new law does not mean that employers are legally obligated to pay an intern wages, compliance with the revised anti-discrimination statues is crucial to New York companies’ business operations.  Employers who offer unpaid internships should consult with counsel on revising their anti-discrimination policies to explicitly include protection for interns.  Comprehensive anti-harassment training should be conducted, and any complaints made by interns should be investigated and handled in the same manner as complaints filed by paid employees.  Finally, employers should provide notice of these important changes to human resources, hiring departments, and managers.

If you have questions about the structure of your company’s unpaid labor program, or on how to revise your anti-discrimination policy in compliance with the new legislation, please call our office at (716) 636-7600.

Small Towns Emerge Victorious in Recent Legal Battle on Fracking

July 29th, 2014

Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” has become one of the most controversial issues that environmentalists and oil companies alike are grappling with.  Hydrofracturing is a process by which high-pressure fluid is injected into small holes that have been drilled into the ground, in order to create fractures in deep-rock formations.  The fracturing of the rock then allows oil and natural gas, which would otherwise be trapped and inaccessible, to escape via wells.  Proponents of fracking point to its economic benefits, as well as the potential for the United States to become less reliant on foreign oil.  Critics, however, are concerned that the environmental costs, including potential groundwater contamination, possible triggering of earthquakes, degradation of air quality, loss of freshwater, and consequential health risks, outweigh the economic benefits of fracking.

In New York State, high-volume fracking has been suspended since 2008, when then-Governor David Patterson launched an extensive environmental review in order to determine the public health risks posed by fracking. The review currently continues under Governor Andrew Cuomo, with no sign of completion in the near future.

However, towns across the state have taken the matter into their own hands.  Throughout the last six years, over 150 towns and cities have passed bans on fracking within their lines.  Dryden and Middlefield passed zoning ordinances in 2011 that prohibited any drilling or hydrofracturing; the validity of each of these bans has been challenged, and as a result, each town has been entrenched in a long legal battle ever since.  Dryden’s opponent is a Colorado-based oil and gas company, while Middlefield’s dispute involves a local dairy farm.  The lawsuits ultimately boil down to whether or not individual towns and municipalities have the authority to ban drilling and fracking using zoning laws that apply within their own boundaries.  The lower courts had ruled in favor of the towns, and in a precedent-setting decision, New York State’s Court of Appeals upheld the prior decisions and ruled 5-2 in favor of Dryden and Middlefield.  Writing for the majority, Associate Judge Victoria Graffeo stated: “We conclude that they may because the supersession clause in the statewide Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Law does not pre-empt the home rule authority vested in municipalities to regulate land use.”

The decision is significant for the future of fracking in New York State, as large companies are now likely to shy away from investing in a state in which local towns and municipalities can essentially make autonomous decisions about fracking.  Further, the decision could have even wider implications as fracking opponents hope that the ruling will spur communities in other states to follow suit and take action at the local level.  The number of key players involved continues to rise, with oil companies, the government, landowners, environmentalists, public health experts, and local communities all weighing in.  As public opinion in New York remains evenly divided, it is likely that the issue of fracking will continue to appear in the courtroom.

10 Summer Moving Tips to Make For a Breezy Transition

Author: Krystal Chapin

July 21st, 2014

It’s summertime and the real estate market is in full swing. Are you getting the moving bug? When it’s time to make the big move, will you be ready? Read these 10 Summer Moving Tips to make sure you’re prepared.

  1. Decide whether or not your move is manageable to do yourself with a few helpers, or if you will need to hire a licensed moving company. To decide, take into account your lifestyle, household size, budget, and your time frame. If a moving company is what you decide, make sure to get at least 3 different quotes so you are sure to be getting the best deal.
  2. Plan to unpack BEFORE you pack. It is important to take photos of each room in your new house so you can get an idea of where you want your furniture, appliances, and decorations to go. This way, you can pack these items together. On moving day, list the major items that need to be assembled first so that you can begin enjoying your home sooner.
  3. Pack strategically. In the moving whirlwind, it’s easy to simply throw things in boxes and figure it out later. But trust us, if you take the time to go through years of accumulated belongings ahead of time, it will make for a much cleaner, clutter-free home. Keep in mind these options when choosing what to hang on to; donate to charity, give to a friend, recycle or trash.
  4. Schedule for your children. Moving with small children can add to the stress of moving day. Much more can be done if you don’t have to tend to and keep an eye on the young ones. Consider daycare or a babysitter so they aren’t underfoot.
  5. Consider your animals. Sometimes pet-owners forget the stress that can be put on animals, not to mention the constant in-and-out of visitors. It is smart to arrange for a pet-sitter or a daycare facility to keep your animals happy and healthy.
  6. Keep track of the small stuff. Oftentimes furniture and other objects need to be broken down to make transportation easier. Make sure to put small screws, nails, washers, etc., into small labeled baggies, instead of taping them to the furniture. This way you can personally carry these easy-to-lose items on moving day.
  7. Take pictures of your electronics. This tip will help keep your sanity later when trying to remember which plug gets connected where. This will prevent headaches when setting up technology in your new home.
  8. Consider getting full value insurance protection. If you are using a professional mover, this may cost a few more dollars, but it is worth it. Investing in full value protection means that any lost or damaged items will be repaired, replaced, or paid for at current market value. Accidents happen.
  9. Unpack one room at a time according to basic needs. It is a good idea to start with the kitchen and at least one bathroom. While packing, mark boxes “Basic Needs” for these rooms so it’s easy to find the initial items you’ll want handy on those first few days of being in your new home.
  10. Know your rights. If using a professional moving company, research your rights as a consumer. You may also enlist the help of The Better Business Bureau (BBB) if the moving company fails to live up to its promises. Do research before you decide on which company to hire. Read reviews and ask friends and family for suggestions and who to avoid.

At HoganWillig, we do our part in making sure your move goes as smoothly as possible. These 10 tips, along with the help of our large real estate team, will make sure you are happily in your new house in no time! Call us today at 716-636-7600.


We Practice Law for Your Peace of Mind