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Spencer Legal Issues Blog

Driver fatigue is a significant cause of auto accidents

Virginia drivers face a greater risk of getting into an accident if they've been getting less than seven hours of sleep a night. A study from the AAA Foundation concluded that every lost hour of sleep raises a driver's crash risk. People who only sleep for five or six hours double their accident risk compared to those who get a full eight hours of rest. When sleep times go down to four hours, the chances of getting into a wreck quadruple.

Other research attributed 7 percent of all motor vehicle accidents to drowsy drivers. Nationwide, that percentage represents approximately 330,000 accidents per year. When looking only at fatal accidents, sleepy drivers contributed to 16 percent of them.

NTSB says current drunk driving limits are too low

Drivers in Georgia are considered dangerously intoxicated when they get behind the wheel with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent or higher. Despite years-long campaigning by the National Transportation Safety Board to reduce the drunk driving threshold in the United States to .05 percent, these calls have largely fallen on deaf ears. Opponents of stricter drunk driving laws say lowering permissible BAC levels would adversely affect the hospitality and tourism sectors and turn safe drivers into criminals. However, the results of a recent study suggest that the public is unconvinced by these arguments.

When researchers from the Texas Medical Center's Health Policy Institute asked Americans about lowering drunk driving thresholds, 55 percent supported a nationwide .05 percent BAC limit, and 46 percent said that any alcohol found in a driver's system should be enough to warrant DUI charges. According to government car accident figures, 29 road users die every day in drunk driving accidents in the United States that cost the nation's economy about $44 billion annually.

Developing an advance health care directive

For most individuals, thinking about your medical wishes if you become incapacitated or pass away is not a pleasant conversation, but it is entirely necessary. Establishing a trusted individual to carry out your wishes gives you, your family and your agent peace of mind if a tragic health event should occur.

In Virginia, a form exists titled the advance health care directive. It works to outline who you want making your medical decisions, as well as whether you would want extraordinary measures to prolong your life. These important designations help your family members avoid arguments and confusion if you become incapacitated or pass away, and it gives you the authority to make these decisions before you would face injury or death.

Increased wealth and credit discrepancies may boost divorce risk

There are many wonderful benefits associated with economic growth in Virginia and other parts of the country. However, having a larger bank account and more financial responsibilities more may not be so good for some marriages. A survey of more than 2,000 adults by a leading bank holding company found that money is the top source of relationship stress. Thirty-five percent of the individuals surveyed also considered finances to be the main "trouble spot" with their significant other.

Simply being financially secure doesn't necessarily mean couples are likely to need the services of a family law attorney. In fact, couples with similar financial situations and equally good credit health are usually in good shape. The potential for stress comes when there is a greater mismatch in credit scores and similar financial health indicators, according to research reported by the Federal Reserve Board. The study further found couples with higher credit scores were more likely to enjoy long-term, committed relationship and less likely to end a relationship after a few years together.

Strategies for writing a dispute-proof will

Grief for a lost loved one can sometimes turn to resentment among surviving family members once they learn the terms of the will. By taking a few important steps, however, a Virginia estate owner could prevent or reduce hurt feelings among heirs.

When someone writes a will, they need to name an executor for the estate. This person will be responsible for seeing that the terms of the will are carried out. Although many people choose a close relative, spouse or friend as their executors, this may be setting the stage for discord if the person does not possess the skills to do the job. A poorly chosen executor might create accusations of stealing by ignoring heirs or failing to accomplish necessary tasks. Assigning a corporate trustee to manage the will could ensure competency and impartiality.

Researchers study reality-based elements for teen drivers' ed

Supplemental risk education driving programs are starting to incorporate more interactive, reality-based elements. Many insurers, government agencies and hospitals across Virginia and the rest of the U.S. are in turn starting to recommend these programs. A study from Baylor University has analyzed the effect of one such program on teen drivers' risk awareness.

Called the Texas Reality Education for Drivers program, it is a one-day, six-hour program set in a hospital. The participants, who are usually teenagers enrolled for disciplinary action by a court or school administrator, go through a guided tour of the hospital's emergency rooms, ICU and morgue. They also speak with health care staffers who have treated car crash victims.

Survey finds most pastors lack estate plans

Virginia residents may understand the importance of having a will and other estate plan documents. However, according to a LifeWay Research survey, over half of Southern Baptist pastors don't have a will, trust or legacy story. This is in spite of the fact that 74 percent of survey participants said that estate planning is an important part of managing assets. Of those surveyed between the ages of 18-44, only 31 percent had a will.

That number increased to 54 percent among those who were ages 55 and older. Having an estate plan may make it easier to minimize an estate's tax bill while also providing increased asset protection. Without a will, a court may decide what happens to a person's assets or who will raise the deceased's children. However, 48 percent who were surveyed said that the family decides what to do with a person's assets in the absence of a will.

How do bond hearings work?

When facing criminal charges, your bond hearing before a judge is the first of what could be many court appearances. Before appearing in court, you'll want to understand what the purpose of a hearing will be, who will and can be present, what specific issues will be addressed and what is expected of you as a defendant.

The court uses a bail hearing to evaluate the chances of the defendant reappearing at their criminal trial. This hearing also sets the exact amount of money the defendant needs to pay, if the judge grants bail.

Establishing child support

One common issue many parents in Ohio may have to address is child support. Child support is typically paid by the non-custodial parent whether the child in question is a girl or boy.

In order to establish a child support arrangement, the relationship between the child and parent must first be verified. For mothers, maternity is established when a woman gives birth to the child. For fathers, there are multiple ways paternity can be established. If a man is married to the mother of the child at the time the child is born, he is recognized as the father. In situations in which the parents are not married to one another, they will be required to complete a form that acknowledges the paternity of the child. They can complete the form in the hospital at the time the child is born, or they can complete the form at their nearby Vital Statistics Registrar or Child Support Enforcement Agency.

Gray divorces and splitting assets

According to data from the Pew Research Center, the divorce rate for older couples in Virginia and the rest of the country is two times what it was in the 1990s. People over the age of 50 are likely to have multiple IRAs, 401(k)s and pensions, so they should take extra care with how they divide their retirement assets during the divorce process.

In order to divide pensions and 401(k) plans properly, it will be necessary to obtain a qualified domestic relations order. A QDRO is a legal order that stipulates how much of an account holder's qualified plan the divorcing spouse has the right to receive. After the order is submitted to the administrator of the retirement plan, the stipulated portion of the plan can be transferred into the ownership of the divorcing spouse.

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