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January 2013 Archives

I'm getting harassed, so let's sue!

"I'm getting harassed at work, so let's sue my employer!" I hear this a lot from would-be plaintiffs. This is because many employees feel they have a right to take their employers to court over any injustice they suffer at work. The truth of the matter is that workplace harassment claims can only be brought in limited circumstances.Most notable are cases where the harassment is based on an employee's legally-recognized protected class. For example, if an employee is harassed because of his race, he may have a legal claim. But even those cases are difficult to prove. Among other things, the plaintiff in such a case must prove that the harassment was based on race; that it had the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with the terms, conditions, or privileges of employment; and that the employer knew or should have known of the harassment and failed to take remedial action. An employee's sex, religion, and disability are other examples of characteristics that can provide the basis of an harassment claim.Minor annoyances at work do not provide the legal basis for racing to the courthouse. As an MSBA-certified Labor and Employment Law Specialist, I can help determine whether conduct crosses the line from petty slight to unlawful harassment. If you have concerns at work, stop in or call us at (320) 763-3141.

Needing Help to Pay the Bills

Spousal maintenance (commonly referred to as alimony) is an award made during a dissolution of marriage (divorce) or legal separation proceeding whereby one spouse is ordered to pay the other spouse money out of future earnings to assist in providing for his or her needs. Spousal maintenance may be ordered on a permanent or temporary basis.Spousal maintenance may be awarded if one spouse lacks sufficient property or income to provide for his or her basic needs, and the other spouse has the ability to make said payments. Whether or not a court orders spousal maintenance is discretionary and up to the judge.In making a determination as to whether or not spousal maintenance is appropriate, a court considers such things as the financial resources of the party seeking maintenance, the party’s ability to provide for him or herself, the party’s age, physical and emotional condition, the duration of the marriage, the standard of living established during the marriage, the time a spouse needs to get sufficient education or training to become self-sufficient, as well as the contribution or sacrifices one spouse made to further the other spouse’s education or employment.Dissolving a marriage is a complex legal matter and should not be taken lightly. If you are in need of sound legal advice, stop in or call us at (320) 763-3141.

Parsing Probate

“Probate” is a term used to describe a method of distributing your assets after death. If you pass away with assets that have no method for distribution, a court is needed to step in and do so. That is when people open what is called a probate. A “will” is a document that explains to the court and your heirs how you want your assets distributed. A will is not a specific method to avoid probate. In most situations, if you have a will as your sole estate plan, your estate will be going through probateMany people hear the word “probate” and picture a giant beast that's to be avoided at all costs. Although that can be the case, in some instances probate is the cheapest and most appropriate way to distribute your assets. The important thing to remember in probate avoidance is that you need to be prepared. If you have a lot of changes or uncertainties in what your estate may possess at your death, then you need to be careful. If don’t follow your probate avoidance plan properly, you may be spending the money twice—once on preparing the plan to avoid probate, and once on the probate you tried to avoid.If you want to discuss the pros and cons of probate, or have other estate planning questions, please stop in or call us at (320) 763-3141.

A cautionary tale of multi-party accounts

Recently, a client contacted our office to assist her in distributing her father’s estate. Her father had a number of kids and requested that his estate be divided equally between them. Nothing fancy – sell the property and distribute it equally to each child. Well, as it turned out, her father also kept a joint account with one child listed as the joint owner. This account was supposedly to be used to help him pay bills and keep up with his finances. The account held a significant amount of cash. What her father apparently didn’t realize was that the account automatically transferred to that one child upon his death. Thus, that child will likely receive significantly more assets than the other children when the estate is wrapped up.Some folks intend for this to happen. Multi-party accounts can be an effective way of transferring assets without going through a probate process. However, failure to keep the above scenario in mind can result in a lot of hard feelings between family members.If you have multi-party accounts, take a hard look at how you want your assets to pass on your death. Preventing such a situation is not difficult; you just need to be proactive addressing such issues in your estate plan. If you have questions about this issue, please stop in or call us at (320) 763-3141.

Beware Of The Release

If you are injured due to someone else's fault, you may be entitled to compensation. Immediately following an accident is not the time to accept a settlement if you are still treating for your injuries, or if the full nature and extent of your injuries is not yet known. Typically a settlement will be a one time payment, and the insurance company or at fault party will demand that you sign a Release in exchange. Beware of the Release. The Release is an important contractual document which will affect your legal rights and bar you from requesting additional compensation should your injuries be worse then initially contemplated.At SWENSON LERVICK SYVERSON TROSVIG JACOBSON SCHULTZ, P.A. we have experienced injury attorneys who will advise you of your legal rights and whether accepting a settlement is in your best interests. If you have been injured, we would be happy to meet with you to answer your questions free of charge and with no obligation to retain us. Our firm only charges a fee in personal injury cases if you actually retain us to represent you and we then recover money on your behalf.Call us at (320) 763-3141 or visit us on-line at www.swensonlervick.com Our office is conveniently located at 710 Broadway in Alexandria.HINT: You should always consult with experienced legal counsel before signing any Release.

Redemption Periods It Ain't Over Until Its Over

Mortgage foreclosure proceedings in Minnesota generally result in a Sheriff's Sale, where the property is sold by public auction. However, unlike typical auction sales, the successful bidder at the Sheriff's Sale doesn't receive complete "ownership" of the property. Instead the successful bidder receives a Sheriff's Certificate that's subject to the property owner's right to redeem. Redemption is made by paying the holder of the Sheriff's Certificate the bid-in amount plus interest and certain costs. If the owner does that, it's as if the foreclosure never took place.For most residential foreclosures the redemption period is six months from the Sheriff's Sale. During the redemption period, the owner is entitled to continue to live on the property and receive the rent if it's being rented out without being required to make any payments. The only right the holder of the Sheriff's Certificate has during the redemption is to make sure the property isn't being destroyed; and if the property is vacant or unoccupied, the holder of the Sheriff's Certificate can take protective measures, such as changing the locks, winterizing the property, etc.If the owner fails to redeem within the redemption period, the owner no longer has any interest in the property and the Sheriff's Certificate "ripens" into full and complete ownership.If you have questions about mortgage issues, stop in or call us at (320) 763-3141.

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