legally speaking header

By Lauri Ann Schmid, Attorney.
These 2012 legal articles are from “Legally Speaking,” a syndicated column and appears in the Savage Pacer newspaper, Savage, MN.

DECEMBER

Executive Decision (12-31-12)

People are usually very flattered when asked to be the executor of an estate because the job requires executors to have the highest ethical standards while following a set of established rules and procedures. However, as the reality of being thrust into the unfamiliar world of probate courts and reading complicated documents sets in, some executors may come to realize they are not up to the task. Matters may be further complicated by heightened emotions and the impatience of beneficiaries. When a person resigns as executor after having started probate court proceedings, he or she can submit his or her resignation and give the court a written record of what has been done. The court will then appoint a replacement.

Do you have any questions about the position of executor, or about any aspect of estate planning? If so, please call our office right away. Our lawyers have years of experience navigating the complex world of wills, trusts, and probate, and we can work with you to ensure that your wishes are followed even after you are gone. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment, please call 952-226-1202. Our address is 6001 Egan Drive, Suite 140, Savage, MN. Multiple Services. Singular Commitment.

HINT: Before accepting the role of executor, carefully examine your own capabilities and energy.

Tough Times, Tough Decisions (12-17-12)

As the media heralds difficult economic times, many people are finding themselves in personal debt crises. While this problem can cause embarrassment, it can be addressed in a constructive manner. By enlisting the help of an attorney who is experienced in the legal aspects of debt and bankruptcy, people with debt issues can begin the journey back to financial well-being. Chapter 7 bankruptcy cancels most of a person’s debts by empowering the bankruptcy trustee to liquidate all of his or her non-exempt properties for the benefit of creditors. Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows a person to keep all of his or her property by agreeing to restructure his or her debt and repay it over time.

Do you have any questions about the different sorts of bankruptcy option that are available to you? Please call our offices for an appointment with one of our discreet and compassionate attorneys. We can provide you with the thoughtful legal advise you need and the understanding and respect that you deserve during this difficult time. In addition to bankruptcies, we also handles cases dealing with corporate law, real estate law, and estate planning. If you have any questions, call 952-226-1202 to make an appointment. Our address is 6001 Egan Drive, Suite 140, Savage, MN. Multiple Services. Singular Commitment.

HINT: Chapter 7 bankruptcy is sometimes referred to as “liquidation” bankruptcy while Chapter 13 bankruptcy is called “reorganization” bankruptcy.

Fighting Foreclosure in Court (12-3-12)

If you are being foreclosed upon, it may be worth fighting the foreclosure in court if the foreclosing party failed to follow the law or you were deprived of an important right. At the very least, significantly delaying the foreclosure lawsuit could buy you more time in your home. Also, as is often the case, you cannot really get a firm grasp on whether a foreclosure is illegal until you gain access to internal bank documents. After a lawsuit has been filed, your attorney can enter into “discovery” proceedings, which require that documents be produced. Although a lawsuit may be costly, it may prove to be worthwhile in cases in which the foreclosure lawsuit is dismissed.

Are you wrestling with the legal issues surrounding foreclosure? Do you have any questions about your rights? If so, please call our office. Our discreet attorneys have years of experience dealing with a wide range of legal issues, including foreclosure and bankruptcy, and we can provide you with the compassionate counsel that you deserve during this difficult time. We also accept cases dealing with corporate law, estate planning, and real estate issues. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment, please call 952-226-1202. Our address is 6001 Egan Drive, Suite 140, Savage, MN. Multiple Services. Singular Commitment.

HINT: If foreclosure on your home is filed against you while you were on active duty in the military, you can automatically receive a nine-month postponement of the proceeding by requesting one from the court in writing.

NOVEMBER

Acting Out of Spite (11-19-12)

As one might suspect, the (in)actions of neighbors often draw people into legal disputes. One of the more common bases for such disputes is what is known as a “spite fence.” This term refers to a fence that is constructed for the sole purpose of annoying a neighbor. Typically, when a fence unnecessarily exceeding six feet in height is erected or maintained to annoy the occupants of an adjacent property, it can be deemed a private nuisance. In such cases, those deprived of the right to enjoy their own property have the right to sue for damages for their injury. A fence that shuts out air and light from a neighbor’s view is illegal in most areas.

If you have an acrimonious relationship with your neighbor, you need to call our office. Our lawyers have years of experience dealing with the these sorts of cases and we can help you settle the issue with thoughtful advice and legal acumen. And, if you go to court, we can give you the representation you deserve. We also provide counsel in cases dealing with real estate law, estate planning, and corporate law. If you have any questions, call 952-226-1202 to make an appointment. Our address is 6001 Egan Drive, Suite 140, Savage, MN. Multiple Services. Singular Commitment.

HINT: Trees can constitute a fence when it comes to defining a spite fence.

Credit Counseling (11-5-12)

Before filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, an individual must first seek credit counseling from an agency approved by the U.S. Trustee’s office for their region within a 180-day period before filing. The goal of credit counseling is to provide a sense of whether a person really needs to file for bankruptcy or if an informal repayment plan will suffice to get a person back on sound financial footing. This requirement does not apply if there is no credit counseling agency within a prospective bankruptcy filer’s region. Also, the law does not require participants to necessarily agree to the repayment strategy proposed by the agency. However, the plan must be filed along with other bankruptcy documents.

Are you contemplating bankruptcy? Do you need a lawyer to help you through this difficult time? If so, please call our office to make an appointment with one of our compassionate and discreet attorneys. We understand the emotional difficulties as well as the legal ones that accompany filing for bankruptcy and we can provide your with the thoughtful counsel you need and the understanding that you deserve. Please call 952-226-1202 to schedule an appointment to discuss your case. Our address is 6001 Egan Drive, Suite 140, Savage, MN. Multiple Services. Singular Commitment.

HINT: In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the filer gets to cancel certain types of debt, including most credit card, medical, and legal debts. However, debts such as child support, alimony, back taxes, and others cannot be discharged.

OCTOBER

Debts Not Covered By Bankruptcy (10-24-12)

Consumers considering bankruptcy should know what obligations bankruptcy does not affect. For instance, obligations defined as “domestic support obligations” are not dischargeable. Such obligations include child support, alimony, and any other debt that is in the nature of alimony, maintenance, or support. For instance, a spouse may have previously agreed to pay for the other spouse’s (or child’s) future living expenses in exchange for lower support payments. If so, this obligation to pay future expenses may be considered as support owed and, thus, nondischargeable. However, to be considered so, the domestic support obligation must have been established in a separation agreement, court order, or determination made by a child-support enforcement agency.

Issues of debt, bankruptcy, and domestic support obligations are complicated on their own. When you combine them, they can become very tricky indeed. That’s why you need to call our office. Our lawyers have years of experience dealing with the nuances of these areas of law and we can help you understand how they interact and how the law affects you. We also provide counsel in cases dealing with real estate law, family law, probate, and estate law. If you have any questions, call 952-226-1202 to make an appointment. Our address is 6001 Egan Drive, Suite 140, Savage, MN. Multiple Services. Singular Commitment.

HINT: Student loans are very difficult to discharge under bankruptcy, requiring the filing of a separate action in the bankruptcy court and a ruling in favor of “undue hardship.”

Buying a Home? (10-10-12)

When purchasing a home, a real estate attorney may be as important to you as a real estate agent. Whether or not the state requires a lawyer to be part of the home buying process, an attorney may perform the invaluable service of overseeing the entire process, including checking for compliance with all the terms and conditions of the sales contract. Real estate attorneys may also perform a title search, explain the effect of any easements or use restrictions, negotiate or represent you in a contract dispute with the seller, and represent you at the closing. Other services include reviewing covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs); community interest development agreements; co-op proprietary leases; and new-home contracts drawn up by the developer.

Are you thinking about buying a home? If so, you may need an attorney to help. Our experienced attorneys have the expertise you need in a wide variety of real estate issues, and can provide you with the legal expertise you need to feel secure in the largest purchase you’re likely to make. In addition to real estate law, our practice also takes cases dealing with bankruptcy, estate planning, wills, trusts, and corporate law. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment, please call 952-226-1202. Our address is 6001 Egan Drive, Suite 140, Savage, MN. Multiple Services. Singular Commitment.

HINT: A real estate attorney can also help those buying a house jointly to structure a co-buyer agreement and document how the title will be held.

SEPTEMBER

Debts Not Covered By Bankruptcy (9-24-12)

Consumers considering bankruptcy should know what obligations bankruptcy does not affect. For instance, obligations defined as “domestic support obligations” are not dischargeable. Such obligations include child support, alimony, and any other debt that is in the nature of alimony, maintenance, or support. For instance, a spouse may have previously agreed to pay for the other spouse’s (or child’s) future living expenses in exchange for lower support payments. If so, this obligation to pay future expenses may be considered as support owed and, thus, nondischargeable. However, to be considered so, the domestic support obligation must have been established in a separation agreement, court order, or determination made by a child-support enforcement agency.

Issues of debt, bankruptcy, and domestic support obligations are complicated on their own. When you combine them, they can become very tricky indeed. That’s why you need to call our office. Our lawyers have years of experience dealing with the nuances of these areas of law and we can help you understand how they interact and how the law affects you. We also provide counsel in cases dealing with real estate law, family law, probate, and estate law. If you have any questions, call 952-226-1202 to make an appointment. Our address is 6001 Egan Drive, Suite 140, Savage, MN. Multiple Services. Singular Commitment.

HINT: Student loans are very difficult to discharge under bankruptcy, requiring the filing of a separate action in the bankruptcy court and a ruling in favor of “undue hardship.”

Buying a Home? (9-10-12)

When purchasing a home, a real estate attorney may be as important to you as a real estate agent. Whether or not the state requires a lawyer to be part of the home buying process, an attorney may perform the invaluable service of overseeing the entire process, including checking for compliance with all the terms and conditions of the sales contract. Real estate attorneys may also perform a title search, explain the effect of any easements or use restrictions, negotiate or represent you in a contract dispute with the seller, and represent you at the closing. Other services include reviewing covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs); community interest development agreements; co-op proprietary leases; and new-home contracts drawn up by the developer.

Are you thinking about buying a home? If so, you may need an attorney to help. Our experienced attorneys have the expertise you need in a wide variety of real estate issues, and can provide you with the legal expertise you need to feel secure in the largest purchase you’re likely to make. In addition to real estate law, our practice also takes cases dealing with bankruptcy, estate planning, wills, trusts, and corporate law. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment, please call 952-226-1202. Our address is 6001 Egan Drive, Suite 140, Savage, MN. Multiple Services. Singular Commitment.

HINT: A real estate attorney can also help those buying a house jointly to structure a co-buyer agreement and document how the title will be held.

AUGUST

All in the Execution (8-27-12)

While a person might be flattered that he or she has been appointed executor of someone’s estate, accepting the role necessitates some hard thinking. An estate executor is likely to find the job to be lengthy and exhausting. Generally, it is the estate executor’s job to protect a deceased person’s property until all debts and taxes have been paid, after which the remaining funds and property must be transferred to the people entitled to them. Among the many tasks required to be performed are: filing the will with the probate court, working with banks and other financial institutions, selling real estate, taking inventory of everything in the estate, and figuring out all liabilities. Not everyone is up to the task.

Do you have any questions about being an executor? Perhaps you’re worried about choosing an executor for your will? Our lawyers have years of experience with all aspects of estate planning and we’re happy to advice you, no matter what your situation. In addition to estate law, we accept cases dealing with bankruptcy, real estate law, and corporate law. Call 952-226-1202 to make an appointment today. Our address is 6001 Egan Drive, Suite 140, Savage, MN. Multiple Services. Singular Commitment.

HINT: Many people come to the conclusion that estates are best executed by lawyers, who are familiar with the procedures and do not have an emotional stake in the proceedings.

Anticipating the Worst (8-13-12)

According to a recent AARP poll, only 36 percent of Americans have a living will, a document that outlines certain procedures that a person does or does not want to have performed under certain circumstances. For instance, some people do not want feeding tubes or respirators used to prolong their lives. A living will makes such preferences known in the event a person cannot communicate his or her desires. Moreover, since living wills cannot anticipate every circumstance, everyone is urged to give someone he or she trusts “durable power of attorney for health care.” Doing so gives that person, known as the health-care proxy, the right to make medical decisions on behalf of the incapacitated person who gave the authority.

Clearly, a living will is a vital document to ensure that your wishes are carried out if you’re not able to voice them. If you’re interested in writing a living will or any other aspect of estate planning, you need a to call our office to schedule an appointment. Our compassionate and experienced attorneys will guide you through the process of writing a living will. In addition, we’re happy to accept cases dealing with real estate law, bankruptcy, and corporate law. Please call 952-226-1202 to schedule a free initial appointment to discuss the merits of your case. Our address is 6001 Egan Drive, Suite 140, Savage, MN. Multiple Services. Singular Commitment.

HINT: If your situation is complex, consider consulting an attorney when drawing up a living will or giving someone “durable power of attorney” to oversee your finances.

JULY

Being Sued by a Creditor? (7-30-12)

If a creditor is suing you, it will usually be in the state where you live or where the transaction transpired. In the event that where you live is different from where the transaction occurred, the creditor will usually select the state where you live to file the lawsuit. The reason for this is that the court requires a substantial connection between you and the state in which you are being sued. On the other hand, some contracts may specify that you agree to be sued where the company is located even if it is a considerable distance away. If so, you may be able to resist being sued on a consumer contract in a state other than yours.

These are difficult times, financially. We understand. If you’re being sued by a creditor or considering bankruptcy, you want a lawyer with experience, expertise, and compassion. Our experienced lawyers have spent years providing counsel in a wide spectrum of cases, including those that involve creditors. If you have any questions, call 952-226-1202 to make an appointment. Our address is 6001 Egan Drive, Suite 140, Savage, MN. Multiple Services. Singular Commitment.

HINT: Once a creditor has selected the state and county in which to sue a debtor, the creditor must choose either small claims court or the state’s civil court.

Going Corporate (7-16-12)

One of the primary reasons that corporations are formed is that they provide limited liability protection to their owners. A corporation is considered to be an “individual,” with the same rights, duties, and obligations as any individual. In order to preserve this legal separation between the corporation and its owners, officers, and directors, it is necessary to comply with all the requirements in running the corporation. Furthermore, the corporation must be properly set up with the adoption of corporate bylaws, the issue of corporate stock, the transfer of assets to the corporation, the issuance of proper state and local licenses in the corporate name, and an announcement that the business is operating as a corporation.

Do you have any questions about corporate structure, liability, or other business law issues? If so, you need a good lawyer who has experience with corporate law. Our attorneys provide representation in many areas of the law, including bankruptcy, estate planning, wills, trusts, real estate law, and, of course, corporate law. Please call 952-226-1202 to schedule an initial appointment to discuss the merits of your case. Our address is 6001 Egan Drive, Suite 140, Savage, MN. Multiple Services. Singular Commitment.

HINT: Like a person, a corporation can enter into contracts, sue and be sued, and pay taxes separately from its owners.

Withstanding A Challenge (7-2-12)

A “living trust” ensures that property will go directly to the deceased’s inheritors without going through probate. One of the additional advantages of creating a living trust is that it is generally considered to be more difficult to successfully challenge a living trust than a will. The reason for this is that the trust creator’s continuing involvement with a living trust (such as transferring property and making amendments) after its creation provides proof that the trustor was competent to manage his or her own affairs. In order to challenge the validity of a trust, it would have to be proven that the trust’s creator was mentally incompetent or unduly influenced by someone, or that the trust was flawed.

If you have any questions about living trusts or wills, or any aspect of estate planning, please call for an appointment at our office. Our experienced lawyers have spent years providing in a wide spectrum of cases, including those that involve real estate law, estate planning, and matters of probate. If you have any questions, call 952-226-1202 to make an appointment. Our address is 6001 Egan Drive, Suite 140, Savage, MN. Multiple Services. Singular Commitment.

HINT: The primary reason for setting up a revocable (living) trust is to save families the time and expense involved with going through probate.

JUNE

Separations (6-18-12)

Each member of an unmarried couple owns only his or her own property unless the couple agrees to share ownership of specified property. In order to be enforceable, an agreement to own property together often must be in writing. However, if an unmarried couple decides to keep each person’s property separate, it is similarly a good idea to create a written agreement that lists the property of each individual. That way, each is free to give his or her property to whomever he or she wishes. If property ownership is shared, each is free to dispose of his or her share only according to the terms of a written contract or in a tenancy in common or partnership.

Estate matters can be particularly complicated when your family doesn’t conform to “traditional” definitions. If you have any questions about any aspect of this evolving area of the law, please call our office. Our experienced attorneys have the expertise you need to make sure that your legal issues are settled equitably, whether you were legally married or not. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment, please call 952-226-1202. Our address is 6001 Egan Drive, Suite 140, Savage, MN. Multiple Services. Singular Commitment.

HINT: Property held by unmarried couples in joint tenancy automatically goes to the survivor.

According to Precedent (6-4-12)

Our system of “common law” is based on the ancient law of England that ensures fair and equitable judgment. Alongside statutes and ordinances, court-made laws serve as “precedents” that guide future courts faced with similar decisions. Thus, whenever a judge writes an opinion deciding a case, it is an important matter for all those living under the law because that court-made law becomes part of the common law and will affect anyone faced with similar situations. Decisions made by lower courts may be implemented, but do not necessarily bind other state courts to make the same decision. However, decisions made by the highest court in the state (Supreme Court) are rulings that bind other courts.

Our legal system is complex and can be confusing. If you have any questions about any aspect of the law, or if you need a good lawyer, please call our office. Our experienced lawyers have spent years providing in a wide spectrum of cases, including those that involve estate planning, real estate law, probate, and bankruptcy. If you have any questions, call 952-226-1202 to make an appointment. Our address is 6001 Egan Drive, Suite 140, Savage, MN. Multiple Services. Singular Commitment.

HINT: Decisions made by the state Supreme Court bind all other state courts until time, custom, and social change compel the court to change the doctrine. Otherwise, the legislature can change the law.

MAY

Naming A Personal Guardian (5-21-12)

Among the many gut-wrenching prospects that people face when drawing up their wills is the matter of who will care for their minor children in the event that one or both parents die before the children reach adulthood. As a general matter, if both parents are willing and able to care for the children, and one of them were to die, the remaining parent would take over physical custody and assume responsibility for the children’s care. If a single parent or both parents were to die, there must be a plan in place that addresses the care of the children. This involves naming a personal guardian for minor children in the will after consulting with potential candidates.

Naming a personal guardian for your children is a decision that is as difficult as it is vital. You need a thoughtful and compassionate attorney to help you through making these complicated decisions. Let us help. We have years of experience dealing with all aspects of estate planning, including wills, trusts, and, of course, naming a guardian. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment, please call 952-226-1202. Our address is 6001 Egan Drive, Suite 140, Savage, MN. Multiple Services. Singular Commitment.

HINT: Both parents should name the same person as guardian in each of their wills to avoid the possibility of a dispute in the event that both parents were to die together.

Can Bankruptcy Prevent Foreclosure? (5-7-12)

Homeowners faced with foreclosure might want to consult with an attorney about filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy to save their homes. Once the filing is made, the federal bankruptcy court issues a “stay” that bars all creditors (including mortgage lenders) from attempting to collect on debts without the court’s permission. Once a repayment plan is approved, homeowners filing Chapter 13 bankruptcy are protected from foreclosure during the plan’s entire period as long as they continue to make the required plan payments and loan payments. The debt repayment plan must show that the Chapter 13 filer has enough income to continue to make mortgage payments, gradually make up missed payments, and pay back a percentage of other debts.

Bankruptcy and foreclosure issues are emotionally fraught and legally complicated. Our experienced attorneys understand and we provide you with the legal counsel you need as well as the compassion and discretion that you want during this trying time. In addition, we can also provide representation in matters involving real estate law, estate planning, and matters of probate. If you have any questions, call 952-226-1202 to make an appointment. Our address is 6001 Egan Drive, Suite 140, Savage, MN. Multiple Services. Singular Commitment.

HINT: Chapter 13 bankruptcy enables those who stick to their repayment plans to wipe out unsecured debt, which frees funds to pay mortgage payments.

APRIL

In Your Particular View (4-23-12)

While no one has the “right” to air, light, and a view without being granted such in writing by a (local) law or subdivision rule, that does not mean that someone can deliberately block someone else’s view. For instance, if a homeowner wants to preserve a view that a neighbor intends to block with a fence or building, it may help to resolve the matter by finding a local law that regulates the height of fences (and trees that serve as fences) and places limits on the height and square footage of buildings and structures. If there is an ordinance that violates the law, the first step involves talking to the neighbor or writing a letter that explains the violation.

Dealing with disputes between neighbors can be a thorny issue, one that requires not only a thorough understanding of the law, but also compassion, understanding, and a delicate touch. Our attorneys can offer you the good advice you need to handle your issue properly, before it escalates into something ugly. In addition to real estate law, we also handle cases involving family law, wills, and probate. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment, please call 952-226-1202. Our address is 6001 Egan Drive, Suite 140, Savage, MN. Multiple Services. Singular Commitment.

HINT: In many cases, a “lawyer letter” will help resolve a problem between neighbors and avert the need to take legal action.

Saving Your Home (4-9-12)

While a Chapter 13 bankruptcy may help those facing foreclosure to come up with a payment plan that helps them keep their homes, Chapter 7 bankruptcy is more suitable for those who are current on their mortgage payments but face future problems meeting this obligation. Thus, Chapter 7 bankruptcy may help prevent foreclosure in the long run by making a mortgage more affordable. It does so by getting other debts cancelled, which makes more money available for making payments on a first mortgage. On the other hand, Chapter 7 bankruptcy is called “liquidation” bankruptcy because, although it may cancel debts, the bankruptcy court may have to sell (liquidate) some assets for the benefit of creditors.

Wrestling with foreclosures and bankruptcy is a difficult issue, one that is fraught with legal complexities and emotional pain. Our experienced attorneys understand and provide you with the legal counsel you need as well as the compassion and discretion that you want during this hard time. If you have any questions, call 952-226-1202 to make an appointment. Our address is 6001 Egan Drive, Suite 140, Savage, MN. Multiple Services. Singular Commitment.

HINT: Chapter 7 bankruptcy is well-suited to homeowners facing a higher reset on their adjustable mortgage interest rate that they do not anticipate being able to afford.

MARCH

Who Will Have The Final Say? (3-26-12)

According to one recent survey, only slightly more than one-third of Americans have a will and fewer than half have any estate-planning documents in place. While very few people are comfortable with thinking about dying, it certainly helps to have a will. A will helps surviving family members cope with a most difficult period in their lives, and it designates an executor to carry out important decisions. Otherwise, people who die without a will (intestate) must rely on the court to distribute the deceased’s property according to state law. This is a prospect that may be even more distasteful to most than drawing up a will, in which case, this important matter should be addressed.

We understand how unpleasant it can be to spend time contemplating your own death. Our compassionate and experienced attorneys will provide you with the understanding you want as well as the thoughtful counsel that you need to be certain your wishes are carried out after you are gone. In addition to wills, we also provide representation for cases involving family law, probate, and real estate law. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment, please call 952-226-1202. Our address is 6001 Egan Drive, Suite 140, Savage, MN. Multiple Services. Singular Commitment.

HINT: The property of people who die intestate (without a legal will) and with no family members to inherit goes to the state.

Protection From Landlord Reprisals (3-12-12)

Tenants who deduct money from their rent for good reason, or complain to a government agency about unsafe or illegal living conditions, may wind up on their landlords’ bad side. At worst, they may find themselves on the receiving end of retaliation. As a result, landlords may react by terminating a month-to-month tenancy or by refusing to renew a lease. Otherwise, landlords may retaliate by increasing the rent or decreasing services. Some renters who find themselves the object of their landlords’ retaliatory moves decide that it is in their best interests simply to vacate the premises. Others decide to take a stand. If so, the first step in standing up for their rights is for renters to review state statutes.

Do you have any questions about landlord-tenant law? It can be a fraught issue, with a lot of emotional aspects. You need clear-eyed advice to help you through what can be a difficult time. At our office, our experienced attorneys can provide you with thoughtful counsel for a wide variety of everyday legal issues, from landlord-tenant conflicts to estate planning and bankruptcy. If you have any questions, call 952-226-1202 to make an appointment. Our address is 6001 Egan Drive, Suite 140, Savage, MN. Multiple Services. Singular Commitment.

HINT: Sometimes, a letter from a lawyer outlining the rights of a tenant may help a landlord see the error of his or her ways.

FEBRUARY

Discrimination at Work (2-27-12)

Employees faced with discrimination may file a lawsuit against their employers on the basis of being intentionally treated differently or not being accommodated as legally required. For instance, an employee may be excluded or neglected for advancement on the basis of age, race, gender, or disability. Discrimination suits may also arise out of pay disparity, unfair job assignment, or the failure to promote solely on the basis of job-related performance and experience. Of course, an employee cannot win a discrimination case simply by making an allegation. It is necessary to prove an employer’s improper motive, that the employee was qualified to do a job that was not offered, is a member of a protected class, and suffered an adverse reaction.

Do you have a question about on-the-job discrimination, or about any aspect of employment litigation? Our attorneys provide experienced legal counsel for a wide variety of cases, including estate planning, corporate law, and real estate law. We take pride in offering thoughtful personalized legal services to our clients. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment, please call 952-226-1202. Our address is 6001 Egan Drive, Suite 140, Savage, MN. Multiple Services. Singular Commitment.

HINT: If unfair treatment stems from a personality dispute that is not based on membership in a protected class, it is not illegal.

Does A Handshake Seal the Deal? (2-13-12)

When making important agreements, people are often advised to “get it in writing.” This admonishment likely stems from a statute of frauds and perjuries that was enacted in England in 1677 that required certain contracts to be in writing in order to be enforceable. If contracts were not in writing, the courts would not intervene. Subsequently, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have adopted versions of this law, referred to as the “statute of frauds.” To be enforceable, a written contract need only contain such requirements as the subject matter, the price, and when the contract is to be performed. Most states require the other party to sign the contract, and some states require both parties to sign.

The sad fact is, handshake deals aren’t worth it. If you have any questions about a contract or about any aspect of corporate law, please call our office. Our lawyers provide thoughtful legal counsel in a wide variety of cases, including bankruptcy, estate planning, and corporate law. We will work to make sure you understand all aspects of a contract before you sign it. Call 952-226-1202 to make an appointment today. Our address is 6001 Egan Drive, Suite 140, Savage, MN. Multiple Services. Singular Commitment.

HINT: Under some circumstances, a court will enforce an oral contract for the sale of goods more than $500.

JANUARY

Claiming Breach of Contract (1-30-12)

A civil case involving breach of contract involves violation of the terms of a legally valid contract. Typical cases range from a borrower’s failure to repay a loan to a company’s refusal to pay agreed-upon compensation to an independent contractor to a seller’s refusal to honor an oral agreement. The four cornerstones upon which a plaintiff builds a successful case are formation (the two sides have a legally binding contract), performance (the plaintiff did everything required under the contract), breach (the defendant failed to do what the contract required), and damages (the defendant’s breach caused the plaintiff to suffer financial loss). For the plaintiff to win his or her case, all these individual elements must be proven at trial.

Do you have a question about breach of contract, or about any legal issue? Our attorneys provide experienced legal counsel for a wide variety of cases, including bankruptcy, estate planning, wills, trusts, and, of course corporate and contract law. We take pride in offering thoughtful personalized legal services to our clients. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment, please call 952-226-1202. Our address is 6001 Egan Drive, Suite 140, Savage, MN. Multiple Services. Singular Commitment.

HINT: Oral agreements are often enforceable, although plaintiffs may have difficulty proving their terms.

Going Into Business for Yourself? (1-16-12)

Most people who go into business for themselves legally structure their businesses as “sole proprietorships” because they are relatively inexpensive and easy and fast to set up. However, a sole proprietorship is only possible when a business is owned by one person (and spouse). Owners of sole proprietorships are personally responsible for all business debts while a limited liability company (LLC) and corporations usually shield their owners’ assets from such debts. Unlike a corporation or an LLC that elects to be taxed as a corporation, a sole proprietor and his or her business are considered to be one and the same legal entity for tax purposes. Consequently, business income, expenses, and deductions are reported on the owner’s individual tax return.

Are you considering starting your own business? Do you have questions about the long-term legal and financial ramifications of how you choose to structure your business? If so, you need to call our office. Our experienced attorneys provide counsel for a wide variety of legal issues, including real estate, probate, wills, family law, and, of course, business issues. If you have any questions, call 952-226-1202 to make an appointment. Our address is 6001 Egan Drive, Suite 140, Savage, MN. Multiple Services. Singular Commitment.

HINT: In a “general partnership,” the business-related acts of one partner legally bind all others.

Enough Cash To Go Around? (1-2-12)

One issue that must be addressed by the executor of a will is that there are sufficient liquid assets (cash or assets that can be quickly converted to cash) to pay the bills of the deceased’s estate. If there are not enough funds to cover the debts, assets must be sold, which should be done prior to distributing property to beneficiaries. If there are not enough assets to pay all the debts, state law will dictate the priority with which outstanding debts must be paid. As a general matter, funeral expenses, family allowances, lawyers’ fees, court costs, and executor’s fees are to be paid in full (or to the extent possible) before other, lower priority creditors are paid.

If you have any questions about the duties of an executor or about writing or executing a will, then you should call our office. We have years of experience dealing with all aspects of estate planning, wills, and probate, and we can provide the professional guidance you need as you move through these complex decisions. In addition to wills, we can also provide representation in matter of family law and real estate law. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment, please call 952-226-1202. Our address is 6001 Egan Drive, Suite 140, Savage, MN. Multiple Services. Singular Commitment.

HINT: Executors are usually not responsible for an estate’s debts unless they caused the estate to lose money or the executor is the surviving spouse (depending on the circumstances).

Are You an Employee or Independent Contractor?

Are you working in the construction industry or do you know someone who is? Well, there are new laws going into effect that will apply to individuals who provide “public or private sector commercial or residential building construction or improvement services.” The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry will begin requiring independent contractor exemption certificates for work performed by individuals as of January 1, 2009. If you or someone you know falls into this category, read on.

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LLCs — Who Needs ‘Em?

As a real estate attorney, I have many clients who want to invest in rental property but don’t know what the first step is after they have decided which property to purchase. I typically will recommend that the client start an LLC (Limited Liability Company) to be the purchaser of the property or to transfer already purchased properties into the entity’s name.

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Health Care Directives — Why the Big Fuss?

Health care directives allow us to express our wishes as to medical treatment in terminal-illness or injuries, and to appoint someone to speak on our behalf in the event we cannot speak for ourselves.

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To Be Or Not To Be … (A Landlord, That Is)

Being a landlord can be a good investment, but it can become a headache if not dealt with correctly. Know what you can and cannot do, have a procedure in place, and know where you can go for answers. Once you have a few rentals under your belt, it will get easier.

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