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Brainerd Minnesota Law Blog

Innocent people could spend years in prison

According to the National Registry of Exonerations, prisoners in Minnesota and throughout the country lost over 1,600 years to wrongful convictions in 2018. That was the highest figure since this statistic was first tracked in 1989. In 2018, there were 151 prisoners who were released after it was determined that they hadn't committed the crime they were convicted of. Those individuals served an average of 11 years in custody.

In 70 cases, the crime that an individual was convicted of had not even occurred. One man was on death row after being convicted of sexual assault on a 21-month-old child. It was determined that the girl's injuries were likely sustained in a car accident. In another 17 cases, an individual confessed to a crime that he or she had not committed. Police and other official misconduct was a driving force behind many of the wrongful convictions.

Can't jump to conclusions

I just finished the third jury trial, all for the same case and client. Just over two years ago he was charged with 4 felonies, the story was all over the papers, screaming headlines, TV news, his mug shot all over the place. As you can imagine, the impact on his business and personal life was devastating. Customers did not want to come to his shop, assuming that he must be guilty of what he was accused of. 

Divorcing as a business owner

Business owners in Minnesota may face special considerations when they decide to divorce. The end of a marriage always comes with an array of decisions, but those associated with a family business can be more complex. This is especially true when a high-value business or one with a great deal of importance to both spouses is involved. In most cases, a business will be considered part of marital property, subject to division as part of the divorce process. However, when one or both spouses are especially committed to the company, this can easily become one of the more contentious and difficult issues even for otherwise amicable couples.

One of the most important first steps when deciding how to handle a business in a divorce is to obtain a legitimate valuation of the venture. Due to their connection to the company or a desire to maintain it, spouses going through a divorce may over- or underestimate the market value of the company. An independent third party can review financial statements and produce a clear valuation that can allow further negotiations to proceed.

The rules for filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy

To be eligible to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, a Minnesota consumer must have less than $1,184,200 in secured debt and less than $394,725 in unsecured debt. A debtor must also establish that he or she has filed his or her state and federal tax returns for the past four years. Failure to do so could result in a person having a case delayed or dismissed. However, there is no income limit for those who are looking to file for Chapter 13 protection.

In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, debts are repaid over a period of three or five years. The length of the period is determined by the debtor's ability to pay, and this is based on how much disposable income that individual has and how his or her income level compares to the state median.

How debt impacts the youngest generation

Americans under the age of 30 owe about $1.05 trillion in overall debt, and they owe a variety of lenders such as credit card and mortgage companies. However, the biggest concern is the amount of student loan balances that young Americans carry. There are roughly 44 million Americans who owe a combined total of $1.5 trillion in such debt. For those under 30, it can delay their plans to get married or buy a home.

Overall, student loan balances are second only to mortgages, which means that Americans are paying more to student loan companies than credit card or auto lenders. Currently, 11.4 percent of student loan accounts are delinquent. That means that payments have not been made in 90 days, and that can be a sign of overall economic health. It is thought that 40 percent of student loan borrowers will be in default by 2023.

Steps to prepare for the divorce process

People in Minnesota who are considering divorce may find it helpful to research state laws related to the process. By fully understanding what a divorce will involve, a soon-to-be ex can be prepared for the future. The decision to divorce can be difficult, and it is a life-changing event.

Once a person has decided to divorce, it's important to get organized. Necessary paperwork may include tax returns, mortgage information and account statements. One should pull copies of credit reports and close any accounts shared with a spouse. It's also important to think about personal and financial goals while creating a budget for life after the divorce. This information can be helpful during divorce negotiations. For example, reviewing finances and a budget can help a person decide whether keeping the marital home is affordable.

If you are recently divorced, consider reviewing your estate plan

As a general rule, you should review your estate plan periodically and make changes as necessary. You should be especially sure to update your plan after major life events, such as the birth of a child, purchase of a home, death of a loved one or even a divorce.

In Minnesota, divorce should remove your ex-spouse from some estate planning documents. However, it may be prudent to go through all your estate planning documents with a professional to make sure your ex is removed in all possible places and someone new is selected instead.

Discharging student loan during bankruptcy

Minnesota residents have likely inquired about discharging student loans. They may have found that student loans are not usually able to be discharged in a bankruptcy. However, as with all things, there are some exceptions.

It's estimated that in the United States, there are 44 million people with student loans, collectively owing $1.5 trillion. This means that student loans are the second largest type of debt in the United States, just after mortgages and ahead of credit card debt.

Wife's illness more likely to lead to divorce than husband's

Illness can cause significant stress in a marriage, and research increasingly indicates that it may make divorce more likely but only if the wife gets sick. Several different clinical studies have found that women are at a higher risk of divorce after they are diagnosed with cancer or other illnesses, but the same circumstances do not necessarily increase divorce risk for men. People in Minnesota should be aware of the potential ramifications of a diagnosis as they apply to the health of a marriage.

One study on the subject, conducted jointly by two American universities, examined 2,701 marriages to see how heart problems, strokes, lung disease and cancer impacted the relationships. The researchers found that women who were diagnosed with heart problems or who suffered strokes were at a higher risk of divorce than those who were diagnosed with lung disease or cancer. Men who were diagnosed with these diseases did not have the same increase in divorce risk.

Methamphetamine confiscated during traffic stop

Minnesota police took more than 32 pounds of methamphetamine during a traffic stop in Pipestone County on Jan. 6. The drugs were estimated to be worth over $200,000. Police initiated the traffic stop after witnessing a vehicle traveling 76 miles per hour in a 60 mile per hour zone. Authorities discovered that the vehicle was not registered to the driver and that the insurance was in yet another person's name.

The driver was a 20-year-old male, and there was a 22-year-old passenger in the vehicle at the time of the traffic stop. Authorities say both gave inconsistent accounts of why they were in the state. Because the drugs found in the vehicle were worth over $200,000, the men were both charged with felony drug sale in the first-degree. If convicted of the crime, they could both spend up to 30 years in prison and face a fine of up to $1 million.

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