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Avoid Halloween surprises
The last thing you want is a lawsuit on your hands. Here's how to keep safe on Oct. 31.
By Gerri Willis, CNN

NEW YORK ( -- Halloween always manages a few delicious frights. But there are some chills that we don't need.

In today's top tips we'll tell the parents what you need to know about your liability on this spooky holiday.

1: Get the gory details

While All Hallows eve is notorious for harmless pranks, there are some pretty severe legal consequences for Halloween Shenanigans.

Stealing candy from a trick-or-treater, or a location is theft and you may be subject to fines. And if you steal candy by brandishing a pirate sword or some other fake weapon, the crime gets even more serious and will be labeled a "violent" crime or a felony in some cases. And that could mean jail time.

Throwing eggs or putting shaving cream on cars is considered vandalism, according to attorney Jeff Isaac. You kid may have to pay for damages or serve community service. Toilet papering trees or smashing pumpkins is considered criminal mischief and can result in fines that could run as high as $500. And kids who break curfew laws may have to spend a few hours at the local police station.

It's the parents who will have to pay the fine.

2: Insure your haunt

Remember that goblins and ghouls of all sizes will be traipsing across your yard. Make sure you have enough homeowner's insurance to protect yourself. This is especially true if you're throwing a Halloween bash, plan on serving alcohol, set up a haunted house or have a pool. You can invest anywhere from $200-$350 a year in premiums to get a $1 million personal umbrella liability policy, according to the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America.

This insurance will kick in if you've reached your limit on your original insurance policy. Your regular homeowners' policy should cover vandalism in case your home is TP'ed or spraypainted.

3: Give your yard the once-over

This is not only a good idea at Halloween, but all the time. Make sure there are no holes in your lawn that someone could fall into. Pick up the little items that you may normally leave outside, like outdoor toys, garden tools or garden gnomes.

Keep your yard well-lit, especially your walkway. And of course make sure there are no loose or broken pieces on stairwells and walkways.You may want to consider putting a glow stick rather than a candle inside your jack o' lantern to minimize the risk of fire.

Finally...We're not ALL business for Halloween. The hottest costumes for kids this year: The princess comes out on usual. But the pirate has moved up the ranks. Darth Vader is SOOO 2005. The number one costume for adults: The witch once again takes the broom.


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