By Lauri Ann Schmid, Attorney.
These 2014 legal articles are from “Legally Speaking,” a syndicated column and appears in the Savage Pacer newspaper, Savage, MN.

APRIL

You Must Put Up a Defense (4-26-14)

What would you do if you found yourself named as the defendant in a civil lawsuit? If you elected to do nothing, the judge may enter a “default judgment” against you. Prior to doing so, the judge would likely make sure you were properly served with the summons and complaint, as well as notified of the correct time, date, and place of the trial. If you were properly served, the plaintiff may then be given the opportunity to summarize his or her case and justify the amount of damages he or she is claiming. Once the default judgment is entered, the plaintiff can collect from you in the same manner as if you had appeared, fought, and lost the case.

Do you have any questions about default judgments? Have you been served with a Summons and Complaint? Our lawyer has years of experience dealing with all aspects of civil law. We will provide you with the thoughtful legal advice you need during this difficult time. In addition, we also take cases that pertain to contract law, bankruptcy law and probate issues. If you have any questions, call 952-953-8843 to make an appointment. Our firm works out of the south metro. Multiple Services. Singular Commitment.

HINT: If you are named as the defendant in a civil case, consult immediately with a lawyer to discuss your options.

Managing Inheritances (4-12-14)

The death of a parent is an emotionally challenging life event that leaves little time or energy to properly address matters of inheritance. It is best to attend to immediate concerns before making any important financial decisions. However, once the estate’s personal representative goes about the task of settling the estate, it is essential for beneficiaries to note that a parent’s lawyer represents the personal representative, not the beneficiaries. With this in mind, if beneficiaries question the personal representative’s methods or motivations, they are advised to hire their own lawyers. Doing so may help ensure that the heirs and the personal representative see things the same way. Once the estate is settled, the services of an estate-planning lawyer may prove invaluable.

Do you have any questions about probating an estate that you have been named an heir or personal representative of? At our office, we have years of experience with a wide variety of legal areas, including probate, estate planning, wills, and trusts. Remember, it’s important to get your attorney involved as soon as possible in all legal matters. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an initial appointment to discuss the particulars of your situation, please call 952-953-8843. Our firm works out of the south metro. Multiple Services. Singular Commitment.

HINT: Typically, at least one beneficiary acts as personal representative.

MARCH

The Last Resort (3-29-14)

There are two types of bankruptcy for individuals. Chapter 7, or straight bankruptcy, involves the liquidation of all non-exempt assets, which are sold to pay some of the creditors. Chapter 7 remains on a person’s credit report for ten years. With a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, instead of giving up assets, an individual submits a plan to the court that explains how he or she intends to pay off debts in the next three to five years. If the plan is approved, the bankruptcy trustee is paid a set amount each month, which is distributed to the person’s creditors. A Chapter 13 filing may be the preferred method for people who have assets that they do not want to lose, tax liabilities or if their homes value is less than what is owed on their first mortgage and need to eliminate a second or third mortgage.

If you have any questions about today’s column, or about any aspect of the bankruptcy system, please call our office today. Our attorney provides a balanced range of legal services combined with a singular commitment to our clients. We are positive and energetic, responding to our clients’ needs with clarity, diligence, and integrity. If you would like to make an appointment, please call our offices at 952-953-8843 or visit our website at www.dmshb.com and submit a contact form. Our firm works out of the south metro. Multiple Services. Singular Commitment.

HINT: A Chapter 13 bankruptcy also remains on a credit report for ten years after filing.

Chapter and Verse (3-15-14)

If your debts have become overwhelming and you are looking for ways to get control of your finances, you may be considering bankruptcy. While Chapter 7 bankruptcy allows you to immediately erase many debts, the price you must pay in return is that you must give up any property you own that is not protected by state and/or federal exemption laws. Chapter 13 bankruptcy permits you to retain your property, such as your home, while utilizing your income to repay some, or all, of your debts. Thus, Chapter 13 bankruptcy may be a good option for those who need time to pay off certain debts and have sufficient income to meet the Chapter 13 requirements.

If you have any questions about saving your home, or about bankruptcy in general, please call our office. Our attorney provides a balanced range of legal services combined with a singular commitment to our clients. Our staff is positive and energetic, responding to our clients’ needs with clarity, diligence, and integrity. In addition to help with bankruptcy, we offer counsel for issues dealing with estate planning, contract law, and business law. If you have any questions, call 952-953-8843 to make an appointment. Our firm works out of the south metro. Multiple Services. Singular Commitment.

HINT: When you file Chapter 13, you must submit a repayment plan that demonstrates that you can pay your mandatory debts, and perhaps repay all (or a portion) of your other debts, over a three- to five-year repayment period.

Reputations at Stake (3-10-14)

In this era of social media, some may wonder if they can protect their reputations under the law of defamation. In order for a statement to be defamatory, it must be false. There are two types of defamation: The term “libel” refers to written statements or other tangible materials that are defamatory in nature. “Slander” refers to spoken statements that are defamatory. For their part, defendants in defamatory suits may offer the defense that they wrote or spoke the truth. A truthful statement cannot be the basis for a defamation claim. Another defense to a defamation claim is consent, in which case the defendant may say that the plaintiff gave the defendant permission to make the statements in question.

Do you have any questions about defamation? Have you been accused of libel or slander? Our lawyers have years of experience dealing with all aspects of criminal law including defamatory actions. We will provide you with the thoughtful legal advice you need during this difficult time. In addition, we also take cases that pertain to family law, contract law, and probate issues. If you have any questions, call 952-953-8843 to make an appointment. Our firm works out of Savage, MN. Multiple Services. Singular Commitment.

HINT: As a general matter, anyone who repeats someone else’s statements is just as responsible for their defamatory content as the original speaker if he or she knew, or had reason to know, of the defamation.

FEBRUARY

Anticipating Trouble (2-24-14)

Although a person normally may not file a complaint until he or she has actually been harmed as a result of another person’s actions, in some situations a court will make a decision in advance to avoid a future problem. A “declaratory judgment” involves asking the court to declare (clarify) the rights and obligations of both parties so that they can perform their daily business without legal uncertainty. A declaratory judgment is used to settle questions such as who is obliged to do what under the terms of a written contract. Or, a case might involve the rights of property owners, such as determining the boundaries of adjacent properties or the ownership of property among several claimants.

Do you have any questions about whether or not a declaratory judgment would be a good idea in your particular situation? At our office, we have years of experience with a wide variety of legal areas, including bankruptcy, estate planning, wills, and trusts. Remember, it’s important to get your attorney involves as soon as possible in all legal matters. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an initial appointment to discuss the particulars of your situation, please call 952-953-8843. Our firm works out of Savage, MN. Multiple Services. Singular Commitment.

HINT: A declaratory judgment is typically requested when a party is threatened with a lawsuit that has yet to be filed, or when a party or parties believe that their rights under law and/or contract might conflict.

As a General Matter (2-10-14)

The special damages sought by plaintiffs in personal injury cases, which arise from medical expenses and lost income, are relatively easy to calculate. General damages, on the other hand, are more difficult to quantify because pain and suffering are more difficult to measure in terms of dollars. For this reason, plaintiffs should rely on their attorneys to provide insight into prevailing attitudes toward general damages in their area. In addition, there are formulas that may be applied to the unique set of circumstances surrounding each case. Lawyers may use them to arrive at a dollar amount that may suitably compensate victims for their suffering. These are but a few factors for which plaintiffs should rely on their attorneys for guidance.

Clearly, determining special and general damages is a complex task. That’s why you want to hire an experienced personal injury lawyer. We have years of experience representing clients in a wide variety of personal injury cases. We will personally take into account your unique circumstances to ensure that you get all of the money that you deserve. And remember, we are happy to take these sorts of cases on a contingency basis, which means you don’t pay until you win. Call 952-953-8843 to make an appointment today.  Our firm works out of Savage, MN. Multiple Services. Singular Commitment.

HINT: Damages are awarded to victims of others’ wrongdoing in an effort to restore what plaintiffs have lost as a result of the defendants’ actions.

JANUARY

Death and Taxes (1-27-14)

One responsibility of the executor of an estate is to make sure that the deceased’s taxes are paid. With this in mind, the executor should give tax debts priority over all other debts of the estate. While the executor is not personally responsible for the deceased’s tax debt, the money used to pay this obligation comes from what the deceased left. Thus, it is not a good idea to give significant amounts to other creditors or give property to beneficiaries until the executor can be sure there is enough left over to pay taxes. Otherwise, if the estate comes up short, the executor could be liable for the tax bill up to the amount distributed to other creditors or beneficiaries.

Do you have any questions about executing a will? Perhaps you want to discuss your estate’s tax liabilities? Do you even have a will? We have years of experience with drawing up wills and can provide you with the thoughtful advice you need to ensure that your family is taken care of after you’re gone. In addition to wills, we can provide counsel on issues dealing with estates, probate, and family law. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an initial appointment to discuss the particulars of your situation, please call 952-953-8843. Our firm works out of Savage, MN. Multiple Services. Singular Commitment.

HINT: A surviving spouse has the option of filing a joint tax return for the year of the deceased spouse’s death unless the spouse remarries during that year.

Prepared in Advance (1-13-14)

Anyone interested in anticipating and addressing future potential problems may be interested in “advance directives.” These legal documents help people deal with possible future incapacity by making their wishes known when they are no longer able to express them themselves. Included are the living will, which states a person’s desires concerning future medical care by specifying what procedures he or she wants or does not want; the health care proxy (also called the durable power of attorney for health care), which allows a person to designate an agent in advance to make decisions on the person’s behalf should he or she later become incapacitated; and power of attorney, which is an advance directive primarily used in financial planning.

Advance directives are powerful legal tools to ensure that your wishes are carried out. If you would like to talk to a lawyer about writing a living will or choosing a health care proxy, please call our office. Our lawyers have years of experience dealing with all aspects of this delicate area of law. In addition to wills, we also take cases that pertain to corporate law, bankruptcy issues, and probate issues. If you have any questions, call 952-953-8843 to make an appointment. Our firm works out of Savage, MN. Multiple Services. Singular Commitment.

HINT: Advance directives should be filled out while people are healthy in order to enable them to think about their wishes without being rushed as well as to consult with their families.

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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