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When estate planning, remember to include your pet

Many people in Minnesota might put off estate planning because the topic is not an easy one to consider. However, it may be especially important for people who have a special bond with a pet to have up-to-date estate plans. In the event that a pet owner passes away before a pet, an estate plan could help ensure their dog, cat or other animal companion is taken care of.

To safeguar­­­­d a pet's future, it's important to consider short-term and long-term plans should one pass away or become incapacitated. While provisions might be placed in a will, this likely is not enough because wills take time to process. Creating or adding to a trust may be a good idea as pet owners can set terms and provide funds for a pet's needs.

How witness testimony can influence a criminal proceeding

Minnesota residents could be harmed if a police officer engages in misconduct. In some cases, misconduct could include lying on a witness stand or otherwise providing inaccurate information in a criminal matter. Recognizing this possibility, groups in Florida, California and Texas have sent letters to authorities in those states. The letters ask that police officers who engage in misconduct not be allowed to testify in criminal cases.

Many communities have Brady lists of officers who are not used in a criminal prosecution. In California, the district attorney in Orange County placed four officers on his Brady list. This occurred after information came to light that they solicited statements from suspects through jailhouse informants. The statements were made by the suspects without having access to legal counsel.

A prenuptial agreement today could save precious time in the future

Wealthy couples commonly use premarital, or prenuptial, agreements to determine how their property gets divided if they get divorced in the future. However, there might be some excellent reasons for average-income Minnesota couples to use this tool and avoid a costly divorce. Although drafting a prenuptial agreement could cost more than $5,000, the benefits of having one might far outweigh the costs.

A premarital agreement defines ownership of property. When one or both spouses enter a marriage with their own property, a prenup could ensure they don't lose it in a divorce. This is especially important in blended families where one spouse wants to protect property for his or her children from a previous relationship. Instead of avoiding the tough financial conversations early in a relationship, couples who draft these kinds of agreements may spend less in divorce court. Since disputes about money are a leading cause of divorce, having serious conversations about it earlier could result in longer marriages.

Minnesota believes in resolving paternity disputes

The state of Minnesota is serious about giving each child a chance to have two supportive parents and giving every child the benefits this often provides. Sometimes the adults around a child have trouble making this happen, and Minnesota does everything it can to attend to the best interests of the child.

Comparing living wills with living trusts

Minnesota residents may rightfully assume that a living will is an essential part of an estate plan. However, they should also strongly consider including a living trust as well. Despite the similarity in their names, living wills and living trusts are completely different legal devices.

Also called an advanced medical directive, a living will addresses issues and concerns related to end-of-life decisions. Individuals who have a terminal illness are expected to die within a short frame of time and have the right to decline medical care that can only be expected to delay the dying process. The living will applies only to measures that will be used to keep their body alive, not any measures that can help them remain comfortable as they pass away.

50/50 Custody

The biblical figure King Solomon was the judge in a dispute between two women who wanted one baby. The king told them, "split the baby in half', each mother will get an equal share." One mother cried out that she would rather the baby be given to the other woman than spilt. The king granted her the baby because she was the true mother. Judges in custody disputes today are required to use the standard of 'the best interest of the child', and not necessarily what is equal or fair for the parents, to make custody determinations. while an equal split sounds fair, and often is fair, it is not always possible. When parents live long distances apart I often hear requests for 50-50 equal time custody. In many cases equal time is a good way to go, lets both parents have a major part in their children's lives. But, when they live in separate communities and school districts, it just will not work. The children have to go to one school or another. They can spend the summer with the other parent, but, even then, it will still not be close to equal time. 

What if I can't afford child support?

Divorce is expensive. You pay court fees, lawyer fees, and after the dust settles, your restructured finances can leave you struggling to keep your head above water. If you and your former spouse have children together, you may also be responsible for child support.

Undoubtedly you want best for your children and want to provide them everything they need. But sometimes financial realities make it impossible for you to keep up with your court-assigned child support payments. The media portrays those who don't support their children as stereotypical "deadbeats," but often the reality is much more complicated.

Sudden resignation of Crosby Policy Lieutenant in charge of investigation against Jim Hunter provokes further questions

I was surprised to see that after three separate juries acquittedJames Hunter. The Crosby Police Lieutenant, who, was in charge of the investigation against Jim Hunter, suddenly resigned recently. His resignation is just one more occurrence which, in combination to everything else that has occurred in this case, demonstrates that the accusations against Mr. Hunter were based on politics and not facts. 

Credit card debt continues to plague America

Debt is a topic of considerable discussion among many Minnesota residents. Nationally, especially as the presidential cycle is again rolling around, it's debated in terms of the type of programs the government should and should not fund. On the personal level, most individuals understand living debt free is a desirable goal yet also realize that is impossible but for a select few. The salient issue then becomes delineating between good debt and bad debt and working diligently to avoid the latter.

Personal finance experts point out that mortgage debt and debt incurred to finance higher education are typically categorized as good, or acceptable debt and credit card debt as bad. A car loan could go either way; while a car in the majority of instances may be deemed necessary, a high ticket make or model may be viewed differently. A significant problem that affects many is the student loan crisis. Although considered acceptable and necessary to propel one to future success, the staggering costs of a college education place most new graduates in a precarious financial position.

Monitoring devices and apps could reinforce racist views

In Minnesota and throughout the country, people use apps and social media channels to keep tabs on what is going on in their communities. However, these apps may not be the best way to stay informed about local events or issues. In some cases, the alerts that they issue are nothing more than nuisances or blatant attempts to scare people. Individuals may receive reports about people knocking on doors or putting glue on mailboxes.

With so many of these types of reports being issued, Americans have a sense that crime is increasing. The truth is that the violent crime rate is at its lowest level in 25 years. These apps may also give rise to racist or prejudiced viewpoints as many who are accused of being suspicious or committing crimes are minorities. In some cases, false or misleading reports of suspicious activity can lead to a person being taken into custody or shot by a police officer.

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