Picture
By now, you have probably heard that the music icon Prince has died intestate, or without a will. You have probably also heard about the probate mess unfolding in Carver County, where Prince died. The mess involves multiple attorneys and multiple persons claiming to be heirs under the law, is going to end up being terribly expensive for Prince and everybody else involved, and illustrates why you need an estate plan.

For most people, an estate plan involves three documents:

(1.) a Will, which controls the disposition of your property after your death.

(2.) A Health Care Directive, which names someone – usually a close relative, such as a spouse, or a friend – as your health care agent, a person who is authorized to make health care decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make the decisions your self. For example, if you are in a coma and otherwise unconscious, the doctors can talk to your health care agent to make medical decisions related to your care.

(3.) A Power of Attorney, which lets the person who you appoint as power of attorney to make financial decisions for you in the event that you are unable to make those decisions for yourself. For example, if you are in a coma and otherwise unconscious, your power of attorney can make financial decisions (related to bank accounts, real estate, investments, etc.) for you.

There are two primary reasons why you should have an estate plan. First, you want the control that comes from having a written plan detailing how you want your property distributed at the time of your death. I believe that you will feel an immense feeling of satisfaction and relief once you have a written plan in place that says what you want to have happen to your personal property when you die. I also think that you will feel a profound sense of relief when you have a health care directive and power of attorney that gives somebody you trust the authority to make medical and financial decisions, respectively, on your behalf if you are unable to do so.

In Prince's case, I suspect that he would have needed a trust to manage and control his music. The details of a trust and setting one up are beyond the scope of this article, but you basically appoint somebody to manage your property in the event that you cannot. A trust can be a powerful estate planning tool, but it is probably not appropriate for most people.

The best way to determine what is right for you is to meet with an estate planning attorney. To that end, I invite you to give me a call at 763-450-9494 to discuss your specific situation. Everybody who calls gets a free 5 minute mini telephone consultation. An in person meeting is $250, and that amount is credited to your account when you retained me to represent you in drafting your Will, healthcare advance directive, power of attorney, and other estate planning documents.

WARNING: The information contained in this article does not constitute legal advice and may not be applicable to your situation.  Tim is licensed to practice law only in the state and federal courts of Minnesota, and the advice that he gives is applicable to that jurisdiction only. Further, reading this blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Baland Law Office, P.L.L.C.  You should always discuss your situation with an attorney before taking any action based on what you may read in this blog.  To that end, please call (763) 450-9494 to set up an appointment to discuss your situation.





 
 
Picture
I am often asked what the landlord should do if the tenant either brings a rent escrow or tenant remedies action, or otherwise complains about the condition of the property. Sometimes, the tenant request a particular repair, and then complains about how long it is taking to make that repair.

The short answer is that the landlord should consult with an attorney experienced in rent escrow or tenant remedies actions. I will talk about each in the rest of this article, but suffice it to say that the landlord should make repairs affecting the habitability of the property as quickly as reasonably possible. Under Minnesota law, the landlord has promised to provide a habitable place for the tenant to live. The landlord's duty of habitability is sometimes called the covenant of habitability.  In practice, this means that the landlord must make sure that the rental unit is safe and has a working front door and lock, and that the heat, hot and cold water, stove, plumbing, and electrical are all safe and functional.

The tenant can request repairs, and for big ticket items affecting the covenant of habitability I recommend that the landlord make those repairs immediately. For example, if a tenant complains about lack of heat in winter, the landlord should fix the problem right away. A tenant might also complain about items that do not affect the habitability of the unit. For example, a tenant might complain about an interior door that is off of its hinges.

I am not saying in any way that the landlord has to pay for damages caused by the tenant. If the tenant damages a unit (say, by punching a hole in the wall), and then request a repair, the landlord should still make that repair, but the time and materials necessary to effect the repair should be put on the tenant's account statement as damages beyond ordinary wear and tear.

A tenant has three basic options when it comes to addressing issues caused by the landlord's failure to make repairs. For this reason, I recommend that a landlord make repairs as soon as possible. The first two options are related – a tenant could bring a tenant remedies action, or emergency tenant remedies action to force the landlord to make the requested repairs. The third option is that a tenant could bring a rent escrow action.

In an emergency tenant remedies action, the tenant only has to give the landlord 24 hours advance notice of the tenant's intent to bring an emergency tenant remedies action. The judge might issue an order immediately requiring the landlord to either make repairs, put the tenant up in a hotel, or something else. Typically, however, the matter will be set for a hearing to determine if repairs need to be made.

In a regular tenant remedies action, the tenant is again asking the judge to order that the landlord complete repairs, but the rental unit must be inspected by a governmental inspector, the landlord has to of been notified of the repairs needed and the tenant's intent to bring a tenant remedies action at least 14 days in advance of the tenant bringing a tenant remedies action, and had a "reasonable" time to complete them.

The tenant might also bring a rent escrow action, but the tenant must notify the landlord of the needed repairs at least 14 days prior to bringing the rent escrow action. In a rent escrow, the tenant deposits rent into court (in other words, into escrow) and seeks to have rent abated – that is, reduced – for having to live with the lack of repairs until the repair is made.  In a rent escrow action, I generally recommend that the landlord file a counterclaim for possession, but this is not an appropriate action in all cases, especially when the tenant has deposited the full amount of rent into court.

Still, a landlord does not want to get to a point where a tenant either brings an emergency tenant remedies action, a tenant remedies action, or a rent escrow action. For all of these reasons, I generally recommend that the landlord make repairs promptly, especially if those repairs affect the habitability of the unit.

Every landlord – tenant situation is unique, and I recommend that landlords talk to an attorney experienced in tenant remedies actions, rent escrows, and landlord tenant law before taking action based on this blog post.  To that end, I invite landlords to give me a call at 763-450-9494 to discuss their unique situation. I have represented many landlords, but typically do not represent tenants.

WARNING: The information contained in this blog post does not constitute legal advice and may not be applicable to your situation.  Tim is licensed to practice law only in Minnesota, and the information contained in this blog post may not apply to jurisdictions outside of Minnesota.  Further, reading this blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Baland Law Office, P.L.L.C.  You should always discuss your situation with an attorney before taking any action based on what you may read in this blog.  To that end, please call (763) 450-9494 to set up an appointment to discuss your situation.

 
 
Picture
I am often asked to explain the difference between a Will and an estate plan. The short answer is that a Will determines what happens to your property after you die, and can be an important part of an estate plan. An estate plan, by contrast, includes a Will, and also a healthcare advance directive and a power of attorney, and may include a trust as well. The healthcare advance directive and power of attorney both give somebody else the authority to make health care or financial decisions for you in the event that you are incapacitated.

I generally recommend that all persons have a Will, a healthcare advance directive (sometimes called a "living will"), and a power of attorney. A trust is sometimes appropriate as well, and a trust can be an important part of estate planning. If you own a small business, you may need to consider business succession planning issues as well, to pass the business onto the next generation.

A Will is a very powerful document that allows you to name a personal representative, a guardian for your children, and indicate what you would like to have happen with your property after you die. In addition to planning for what happens to your property after your death, I think that it is also important to appoint someone through a power of attorney and healthcare advance directive to make health care – related decisions for you and manage your financial affairs in the event that you become incapacitated.

The best way to determine what is right for you is to meet with an estate planning attorney. To that end, I invite you to give me a call at 763-450-9494 to discuss your specific situation. Everybody who calls gets a free 5 minute mini telephone consultation. An in person meeting is $250, and that amount is credited to your account when you retained me to represent you in drafting your Will, healthcare advance directive, power of attorney, and other estate planning documents.

WARNING: The information contained in this article does not constitute legal advice and may not be applicable to your situation.  Tim is licensed to practice law only in the state and federal courts of Minnesota, and the advice that he gives is applicable to that jurisdiction only. Further, reading this blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Baland Law Office, P.L.L.C.  You should always discuss your situation with an attorney before taking any action based on what you may read in this blog.  To that end, please call (763) 450-9494 to set up an appointment to discuss your situation.


 
 
Picture
I am often asked what you should do if somebody owes you money. The short answer is that you should probably sue in conciliation (or "small claims") court, although the longer answer depends on what you are owed money for and how much money you are owed.

The jurisdictional limit for suing in conciliation court – or the most you can ask for – is $15,000. So, if somebody owes you $15,000 or less, I would probably recommend suing in conciliation court. However, if you have provided professional services or have done work on a titled piece of personal property (the most common is probably a motor vehicle), then you may have a lien for the amount of your services that could be enforced outside of conciliation court. Of course, if your claim is for more than $15,000, you should consider suing in District Court, where damages are not limited.

To win in conciliation court, you must prove both liability and damages. In other words, you must prove that the defendant actually owes you the money, and the amount that they owe you. If you win your conciliation court case, you will wind up with a conciliation court judgment for the amount of your claim that you were able to prove. The conciliation court judgment will be stayed for a period of time to allow the defendant to appeal, if the defendant wishes.

Once the time for appeal has passed, you should immediately docket (or transfer) the judgment from conciliation court to District Court by filing a document called an Affidavit of Identification of Judgment Debtor. A District Court judgment shows up on a person's credit report, so the defendant will be unable to obtain major financing – such as a mortgage loan – with your judgment on their record. In addition, having a judgment in District Court gives you the right to garnish wages and bank accounts to collect your judgment.

I can't really speak for other attorneys, but I know that I will collect on a judgment for a contingent fee of one third of any amounts collected, less expenses. Typically, I require an expense retainer in advance. Collecting on a judgment is hard work. Whether you are able to collect anything depends on several factors, including but not limited to if the debtor is working, receives public assistance, and has an active bank account set up at a bank or credit union.

Tim represents creditors  – both consumer and business – in collection matters. Tim also represents consumer and small business debtors in bankruptcy, and brings this perspective – the perspective of an attorney representing debtors – to collections. I somebody owes you money, or if you have a judgment that you need help collecting on, please give Tim a call at 763-450-9494 to set up a consultation. Tim charges $250 for a consultation, and will advise you about your rights under the law and options available to you.

DISCLAIMER: Baland Law Office, P.L.L.C. is a debt-relief agency, and Timothy H. Baland, Esq. is a debt-relief agent.  We help people like you to obtain bankruptcy relief.

WARNING: The information contained in this article does not constitute legal advice and may not be applicable to your situation.  Reading this blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Baland Law Office, P.L.L.C.  You should always discuss your situation with an attorney before taking any action based on what you may read in this blog.  To that end, please call (763) 450-9494 to set up an appointment to discuss your situation.