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Rochester Business & Commercial Law Blog

Ensuring that an executor fulfills the duties of the position

Being the executor or personal representative of a Minnesota estate after a person dies is an important fiduciary responsibility. Even though adult children may not want to fill this role, they should still be aware of how the probate process is progressing, and whether there are any red flags.

According to the Minnesota Statutes, the personal representative has the duty to act as any prudent person would in the role of administering the duties of the estate, including paying debts and distributing assets. This must be done according to the wishes of the deceased as laid out in the will, as well as through following Minnesota probate law. If the personal representative was chosen because of particular knowledge or expertise in an area, such as finance, then he or she will be held to that professional standard.

6 things to look for in an intermediary during a merger

You're planning a merger with another company. You have talked to the owner extensively. You believe you'll both thrive if you work together. You're excited about the shift in direction and what the future holds.

At the same time, though, you want to be careful. You haven't done this before. You're worried about accepting a deal that isn't optimal. You don't want to make any mistakes. It's one thing to learn from mistakes, but you know it's better to learn in advance and avoid them. So, with all that in mind, you've decided to work with an intermediary.

What do you need to start an online business?

By starting an online business rather than finding the ideal physical location in Minnesota, you eliminate several steps and expenses in getting your company up and running. However, selling goods and services online involves unique preparation, and if you neglect this groundwork, you could ruin your chances of success.

According to Chron.com, your online venture needs a business plan that defines the goods or services you want to provide, and the methods you will use to do so. You also need to determine who your target audience will be. This planning needs to extend to your website, as well. The design, structure and content, as well as the ease of interaction, can make or break your business by inviting or alienating customers.

Changing Minnesota estate tax laws may benefit your heirs

It is only natural that you want as much as possible of your estate to go to your heirs after your death. However, Minnesota estate taxes on top of federal taxes can drain the assets considerably if steps are not taken to avoid these consequences. We at Dunlap & Seeger, P.A., often provide advice and assistance to individuals, entrepreneurs and farmers who want an estate plan that maximizes the benefits to their family members.

The Research Department of the Minnesota House of Representatives explains that the legislature has recently increased the amount of the exemption for estate taxes. Effective retroactively to Jan. 1, 2017, the exemption is $2.1 million, and will increase to $2.4 million in 2018. The current plan will result in a $3 million exemption as of 2020. Your estate tax will be calculated using a state tax rate schedule, which currently ranges from 12 to 16 percent for deaths in 2017. 

Merging businesses effectively with successful outcomes

Merging two companies can easily be one of the most complicated business ventures. However, with careful planning, responsible execution and timely action, such an investment can yield incomparable growth and market advantage. For Minnesota companies interested in pursuing a merger, their decision could allow them to experience the benefit of gaining new competencies, leveraging strengths and recognizing previously unknown opportunities for growth.

According to American Express, organizational leaders who want to pursue merging with another business can do so much more effectively by employing a few key action steps. These include the following:

  • Due diligence: Leaders must take adequate time to evaluate their plan and potential investment. Failure to properly investigate the key aspects of the venture could yield detrimental results that dangerously affect the company's success. 
  • Goal setting: From the get go, an effective merger will require company leaders to discuss goals and mutual desires to create a cohesive and realistic vision of success.
  • Hire specialists: A transition team should be implemented to assist with the major changes that are about to take place. The individuals on this team should be carefully screened to identify strengths that will enable the team to function as a unit in the transformation process.
  • Assess finances: Companies interested in merging should look closely at the financial health of their establishment. Disregarding potential issues could prove disastrous in the long-run, even if immediate consequences are not yet recognized.

Addressing false claims of undue influence

There are all sorts of estate-related hurdles that can arise, which sometimes make life incredibly hard for those setting up an estate plan or dealing with the disbursement of assets after the decedent has passed away. Moreover, family drama can play a role in some of these matters, such as allegations that a particular relative is responsible for undue influence. Moreover, allegations of undue influence may involve someone outside of the family. Whether you are an executor who has been accused of undue influence or are trying to set up an estate plan as you wish but your family members have stated that you are not capable of making the right decisions, this can be very tough.

False claims of undue influence must be addressed appropriately. If you are an executor who has been accused of this by beneficiaries, you should be thoroughly prepared and ready to defend yourself in court. You should do your best to prove that there was not coercion and that the estate plan was set up according to the wishes of the decedent, who was of sound mind. Moreover, you should be aware that these disputes can get very emotional and may even lead to permanent friction within a family. You should try to reduce the impact of this dispute, if at all possible.

The basics of customer service agreements

Before you can provide your services to customers in Minnesota, you need to ensure that your relationship with them will be solid. We at Dunlap & Seeger, P.A., have helped many clients develop the foundation they need for strong customer service agreements.

Chron.com explains that just like every other contract your company needs in order to conduct business, the agreement between you and your customer should use clear and direct language to identify the terms and conditions. The specific details of the contract will be worked out in your negotiations with the client, but there are some standard elements you will want to include in every agreement, such as the following:

  • The scope of the work you are providing
  • The length of time you need to complete the work
  • Costs of materials and other expenses
  • Labor charges

Have you addressed these bankruptcy questions?

If you are in a difficult financial spot, you may turn your attention to bankruptcy. You could soon find that this is one of the better ways to improve your finances and put your life on the right track.

While bankruptcy sounds appealing, here's something you need to know: The process can be a challenge from start to finish.

Can you find the perfect guardian for your children?

As with many parents in Minnesota, chances are you have considered who would care for your children if something tragic were to happen to you. However, thinking about awarding guardianship to someone and actually taking the steps to guarantee that your children have a legal guardian lined up, are two completely different things. 

According to the Huffington Post, there are some common myths that many people believe regarding guardianship. Your familiarity with these myths can help you to make a wiser decision and avoid negative consequences down the road. These myths include the following:

  • Someone will offer: A common belief held by many people is that someone, will be willing to jump up and care for their children if something happens to you. Unfortunately, while you may believe this to be true, you are not the person who gets to make this decision. A judge will award guardianship to whomever he feels he should even if it is contrary to what you would have wanted. 
  • A perfect match exists: While it would be wonderful for you to find someone who is a perfect match for your parenting skills and style, you must understand that no one will ever replicate your roles perfectly. When selecting someone to be your child's legal guardian, pay attention to personalities, financial stability, lifestyle and family relationships among other things.
  • They will say yes: If you think you can recommend someone for guardianship before asking if they are willing, you are mistaken. Someone who has had the time to prepare to care for another child in the case of a tragic emergency, will be much better equipped to provide the care and love your child really deserves than if guardianship is sprung on them at the last minute. 

Arbitration board finds man forged power of attorney

Rochester residents are encouraged to exercise extreme caution when choosing whom to involve in their estate planning. While most may want to assume that their friends and family will always act in their best interests, handing over authority such as power of attorney to the wrong person could have disastrous consequences to both a settlor and his or her estate. Even associating with the wrong types could open the door for cases of abuse and/or fraud. The hope is that those involved in them recognize a perpetrator's actions and are able to hold him or her solely responsible. 

Such was the outcome in a case involving a dispute with the financial services firm Edward Jones. The firm had paid damages to the estate of a woman totaling $290,000. It was later discovered that the man who claimed to have been given power of attorney for the woman had actually embezzled the settlement funds from her account. He also apparently forged the documentation granting him power of attorney, as well as an indemnification agreement which absolved him of any liability for actions that were supposedly taken on her behalf. 

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