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Martens PLLC Blog

Couples without children still need strong estate plans

Many people underestimate their need for a good estate plan or even a basic will. If you are married but don't have children, you may think the same thing. After all, if you pass away, your spouse will inherit your money and possessions, right? What will happen if both of you pass away? It's worthwhile to put careful consideration into a plan for the future. 

It's not always easy to make estate planning decisions. These are choices that often pertain to what will happen after you pass away, which you may find unpleasant or foreboding. Even if you do not consider yourself wealthy or you believe that your estate is not that extensive, you will find many benefits to crafting a plan that will allow you to maintain control over what happens. This is a prudent step for all North Dakota couples, even those without children.

Canadian Summer Vacation Gone Awry

With summer officially underway, in late June most Americans are getting the bunting and fireworks ready for Independence Day on July 4.  However, some among us like to head north to the wilds of Canada for outdoor adventures, sporting events, fries and gravy, and maybe even some of their infamous moonshine-like beer. So, with Canada Day right around the corner, it seems like as good a time as any to address one of the occasional inquiries we field from people who don't want to get turned away by the Mounties - especially in light of some changes in Canadian law this past year.

4 possible signs of undue influence in estate planning

Even though death is a part of life, dealing with the loss of a loved one can be overwhelming. If you believe your loved one’s will does not accurately reflect his or her wishes, though, you may be in for additional heartache. You may also be at risk of losing your fair share of the estate. 

Provided you have legal standing to contest the will, North Dakota’s probate courts allow you to present evidence of undue influence. Generally, undue influence occurs when someone puts impermissible pressure on the person drafting the will. As you may suspect, the consequences of undue influence can be extreme. Here are four possible signs undue influence may be present in your loved one’s will: 

How to behave at DUI checkpoints

There have been some efforts in recent years to outlaw DUI checkpoints in North Dakota. Until that time comes, drivers need to be aware of when a checkpoint will pop up. They also need to know their rights any time they come across these passages. 

The best piece of advice is to never get behind the wheel of a vehicle after consuming any amount of alcohol. A DUI conviction can ruin a person's life, so whether you are sober or not, here are the steps to take any time you come across a checkpoint. 

Tips for administering an estate

If a friend or family member designates you as a personal representative or executor of his or her estate, you may feel thankful and honored. Having someone trust you with the duty of administering his or her assets can be a blessing. However, it can also be confusing and stressful as you figure out what you need to do.

Essentially, estate administration involves collecting assets, paying debts and distributing assets to heirs. Take heed of these tips for administering an estate properly. 

Thinking about buying a foreclosure? Read this first

The North Dakota real estate market is hot, with plenty of investment opportunities for both sellers and buyers. Thanks to low interest rates and other factors, many potential homeowners are expanding their search to include foreclosures. While there is nothing wrong with purchasing foreclosed properties, without a fair amount of research, it could turn into a nightmare that has far-reaching financial consequences. 

What is a foreclosure? 

Does your estate planning cover your pets?

Planning for the care of your beloved pets if you die before them is not as simple as it is in the movies, where wealthy pet owners often leave their fortunes to their furry family members. However, including your pets in your estate planning does not need to be complex, either. A pet trust should be able to cover the needs of pet lovers in North Dakota.

The law considers pets to be property, so yours can’t inherit an estate. You could simply leave Whiskers or Patches to one of your relatives in your will, but a pet trust gives you more flexibility and options for stating your precise wishes as to your pet’s continued well-being.

The pros and cons of plea bargains

If you are a North Dakota resident charged with committing a crime, you may be wondering if you should authorize your attorney to enter into a plea bargain with the prosecutor or if you should go to trial instead and risk conviction by a jury. Often this is one of the most important decisions you must make, particularly if you face felony charges.

Before agreeing to any plea bargain, it is important for you to understand exactly what the agreement is, who will do what, and what the consequences likely will be. Therefore, always thoroughly discuss with your defense attorney any plea bargain that the prosecutor proposes.

You could face criminal charges for road rage

In today’s world of hectic schedules and heavy traffic, it is not surprising that many people are impatient to get to where they are going. When an inconsiderate or inattentive driver comes into the mix, some people might fly off the handle. Before you lose patience in traffic, however, you should understand the consequences you might face for aggressive driving or road rage. These are issues that have become prevalent for nearly all drivers in North Dakota and elsewhere.

In statistics reported by the American Safety Council, some form of driver aggression is the cause of 66 percent of fatal traffic accidents. You should know that there is a legal difference between aggressive driving and true road rage. When you are driving aggressively, you may have already lost your patience and you might either be trying to get back at another driver or get around slower traffic. This type of driving behavior can result in accidents, and if police pull you over for aggressive driving, you may face charges of a traffic offense.

Keep your "Holiday Cheer" from Resulting in "Holiday Jeer"

Last month, we shared some sage advice to help your Thanksgiving guests avoid needing to hire us to get out of the dreaded "whisky ticket" - hopefully they were thankful.  Now that we're into December - "the most wonderful time of the year" -  with family, work, and other social gatherings set in the coming weeks that advice is even more important to heed.

DUI, however, is only one of a number of things that could go wrong with your holiday season.  While we certainly don't want to be the Scrooge in your Christmas Story, we want to make sure our friends and clients avoid other things that could go wrong with the holidays - keep that well intended "holiday cheer" from resulting in "holiday jeer" if you will.