AUTOMOBILE ACCIDENTS: Claims for damage to your car is usually settled separately from any claims of injury (Minnesota Fair Claims Practice Act). Minnesota is a no fault state. That means that with your own insurance policy, you have provided for yourself PIP (Personal Injury Protection) coverage. In general, if you have been in a car accident, your own medical bills, wage loss and replacement services are covered by your own vehicle and this coverage is available without regard to who is at fault. Only when you have met certain thresholds can you make a claim against the driver at fault. In making a claim against another, it is necessary to have evidence of the fault or negligence of the other driver, and also establish your own damage and prove that you claims have exceeded the threshold.
BANKRUPTCY: Bankruptcy allows individuals and sometime companies to seek relief from creditors. In a chapter 7, your creditors are divided into three groups: unsecured priority; secured creditors; and unsecured creditors. In most cases, a chapter 7 will discharge most of your creditors. The bankruptcy laws put limits on what you will be able to keep. That property is called exempt property. In a chapter 13, you will have a payment plan and after the plan is over, you will be able to keep all of your property. Chapter 13 plans work will if you have certain debts that can not be discharges such as recent state and federal tax obligations.
BUSINESS: In the operation of a business you need to protect yourself and family. The selection of the business entity is critical in the protection of your family’s wealth now more than ever because of these troubled economic times. Are you operating a business? Should you be doing so as a sole proprietorship, partnership, Limited Liability Company, or Incorporated Business with and an IRS Subchapter S Election? Have you prepared your business for transition or sale? Does your business have a buy-sell agreement between the owners? Do you have an exit strategy? If one owner is leaving, how would the value of his interest be determined? How would the purchase of his interest be funded? For a single owner, what happens if you become ill, or die? I can provide assistance in protecting your business interests.
DOG BITE: Dog bites occur. Often the victim of a dog bite is a young child. The physical and psychological damage can be severe. Most of these maters are settled, but in order to maximize the recovery, it is important to document both evidence of fault as well as evidence of damages.
FAMILY MATTERS: Minnesota is a no fault divorce state. You must be a resident for 180 days before starting the divorce. The courts will most often equitably divide the marital assets (generally speaking assets acquired during the marriage) marital debts (debts incurred during the marriage). Non-marital assets and non-debts are handled by the court differently and are generally awarded to the party that owned them outside of marriage. However there are exceptions and these assets must be traced. In addition, the assets might have a mixed marital and non-marital part and should be apportioned. If there are minor children, then the court will need to determine custody, parenting time, support and other related issues. There are two parts to any divorce matter. The first deals with the separation and division of the parties’ property and debts. The second deals with ongoing obligations between the parties. Issues that are ongoing include child custody, parenting time, child support, and spousal maintenance.http://childsupportcalculator.dhs.state.mn.us/. Paternity matters deal with legal determination of parentage, custody, parenting time, and support. Paternity will typically not deal with the issue of division of property and debts.
GUARDIANSHIP AND CONSERVATORSHIP: A guardianship deals with issues of the person, such as where the person lives and medical care. A conservatorship deals with issues of assets, debts, and the payment of expenses. This can pertain to a minor or to an adult. A Guardianship or Conservatorship is started with a petition to the court. Please see http://www.mncourts.gov/selfhelp/?page=4499.
LITIGATION: Most often litigation means legal action in a law suit. Law Suits are generally governed by the Minnesota Rules of Court. A law suit is usually started by service of a Summons and Complaint. The complaint states the plaintiff’s claim against the defendant. The defendant must respond to the complaint by an answer. The answer responds to the plaintiff’s complaint and raises any new defenses and claims that the defendant may.
If you start the law suit, then you are the plaintiff. If you have been served, then most likely you are a defendant. The process is governed by the Minnesota Rules of Court for State courts and Federal Rules of Court for U.S. District Court matters. There are specialty courts such as Workers Compensation and Tax Courts which have there own Rules.
PROBATE: In the event of a death, it may be necessary to probate the estate of the decedent. It most cases, the decedent had a will and if required, it will be probated in the County in which the decedent resided. If the decedent had a valid will, then the probate is called testate. If the decedent did not have a will, then the estate is called intestate. The person that handles the estate is called the Personal Representative. The Estate can be handled informally or formally. Formally means that you proceed before the judge. If the estate is small it may be possible to collect and distribute the assets by use of an affidavit of collection. Probating an estate is common and can result in certain tax advantages. It is important to discuss with your attorney all of the issues pertaining to the decedent.
WILLS, TRUSTS, AND ESTATE PLANNING: Families with young children should consider providing protection for those children in the event that something should happen to both parents. A properly drafted will can provide protection to the young children in the family and at the same time keep the estate together as needed for the surviving family. As the children mature, you may want to revise your will. If your family is grown, you may want to look at your estate to insure that you maximizing your assets and minimizing your estate tax. You may want to look at insurance to provide for nursing home care, or you may want to look at asset division for the protection of your estate.
This is general information, and you should always seek the advise of an attorney when faced with legal problems.
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Robert M. Pearson Attorney Phone 763-428-2297 Fax 763-428-2298