Call Now

507-345-1166

TAX INCENTIVES FOR SALES/RENTALS TO BEGINNING FARMERS

Sep. 12, 2017

Written by Christopher Roe

Given the capital and land access issues faced by beginning farmers, it’s not surprising that the average age of the American farmer is approaching age 60.  To get a meaningful start in farming, beginning farmers must deal with numbers in the seven figures in terms of capital requirements and debt.  With these numbers, there is minimal room for error, and many times individuals who may desire to farm choose other opportunities, leaving the rural area in which they grew up.

To combat these issues, Minnesota has a new law that provides tax incentives to taxpayers who sell or rent farming assets such as agricultural land, buildings/facilities, machinery/equipment and livestock to beginning farmers.  This new law offers an opportunity for beginning farmers to develop new relationships to expand their operation.  Furthermore, it provides retiring farmers with no family successors an incentive to start a relationship with a beginning farmer.

Some details of the new Minnesota law:

  • For sales to beginning farmers, the taxpayer receives a tax credit off their Minnesota tax liability of 5% of the sale price up to a maximum of $32,000.00.
  • For rentals to beginning farmers, the taxpayer receives a tax credit off their Minnesota tax liability of 10% of the gross rental income in each of the first 3 years of the lease up to a maximum of $7,000 per year.
  • A beginning farmer is someone who has started farming in the last 10 years and cannot have a net worth greater than $800,000.00.
  • There are no tax credits available for sales/rentals between family members (parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, spouses, children and grandchildren).
  • If the amount of the credit exceeds Minnesota tax liability, the excess may be carried forward 15 years.
  • The Rural Finance Authority must certify the beginning farmer and tax credit. The beginning farmer must participate in a financial management program, the cost of which is subsidized through a tax credit to the beginning farmer.  The credit is capped, and it is on a first come, first served basis.  RFA is in the process of developing a Beginning Farmer Tax Credit Application.

For any questions on the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit or any agricultural law matters, please contact Christopher Roe at 507-345-1166 or croe@blethenlaw.com

 

September Attorney of the Month – Chris Roe

Sep. 07, 2017

Chris Roe has a diverse practice consisting of agricultural, estate/trust, business, and real estate clients.

A large part of Chris’ practice is devoted to assisting individuals and businesses in the agricultural setting. Chris is a farmer himself; he and his family operate Roe Farms a large crop/hog operation near LeRoy, MN.

Chris handles estate planning and estate administration matters including wills, trusts, powers of attorney, health care directives and probate matters. He concentrates mainly on large and complex estate and trust matters including estates or trusts that involve businesses or farm operations.

Chris acts as outside general counsel to many non-profit and for-profit business enterprises, emphasizing on business organization, employment, mergers, acquisitions, sales, contracting and governmental matters.

He is routinely involved in agricultural, commercial and residential real estate matters such as purchase agreements, title opinions, title insurance, and closings.

Contact Chris at 507-345-1166 or at croe@blethenlaw.com.

Role of Insurance in Civil Litigation

Aug. 23, 2017

Written by Ben McAninch

Most people understand how insurance claims work and most people understand why it’s a good idea to carry insurance. What might be surprising is the degree to which insurance issues affect civil lawsuits. The following is a (non-exhaustive) list of some of the ways in which insurance affects litigation.          

Cost to bring a suit: Lawsuits cost money. One of the factors in determining whether a lawsuit is worth bringing is whether a judgment would be collectible in the event of a victory. While it is easy to say, “it’s not the money, it’s the principle,” it’s harder to pay a lawyer thousands of dollars in legal fees to obtain a judgement from a party who can’t afford to pay. There’s also a disincentive to bring a small claim where even a nominal victory in Court would not yield as much money as the cost to obtain the verdict.  In most cases involving negligence (auto, recreational vehicle, homeowners’, farm liability, commercial, construction defect), some kind of insurance is involved. If the claims made in the lawsuit are covered, the insurance company generally provides a defense to those claims. Thus, the person getting sued doesn’t have to pay their lawyer. The fact that the fees are paid by someone else affects the litigation strategy.

Identity of the lawyer: Since the insurance company has the obligation to pay, it generally gets to choose the lawyer handling your case. Your insurance company doesn’t want you hiring your cousin-in-law who just passed the bar and who generally writes contracts to defend your multi-million dollar injury case. Insurance companies usually have panels of attorneys that have been determined to be able to properly represent their insureds’ interests. Thus, the presence of insurance sometimes means you don’t choose your own lawyer.

Coverage Limits: A defendant with a small amount of coverage may see their insurance company more willing to settle the claim to avoid a verdict in excess of the policy amount. Having a larger limit generally gives the insured more piece of mind. On the other hand, an individual with a very large insurance policy may become more of a target than someone who has a smaller policy. This analysis is often dependent on the availability of other assets to pay a judgment.

Subrogation: Sometimes insurance companies sue other insurance companies or entities on behalf of their insureds. If your insurance company pays a loss and subsequently discovers that another carrier or entity should have compensated that loss, it may bring the lawsuit against that other entity.

Bad Faith: An insurance company generally has a duty “to the insured to represent his or her best interests and to defend and indemnify the insured. Even though the insurer has the right to control negotiations, that right must be subordinated to the purpose of the insurance contract – to defend and indemnify the insured within the limits of the insurance contract.” Short v. Dairy Land Ins. Co., 334 N.W.2d 384 (1983). Without getting into a highly technical analysis, failure to fulfill that duty can subject an insurance company to a claim of “bad faith.”  Attorneys for insureds or injured people may include a claim that an insurance company will be found to be in bad faith as a means of increasing the potential exposure and leveraging a better result.

Ben McAninch – August Attorney of the Month

Aug. 04, 2017

Ben McAninch joined Blethen, Gage and Krause in 2010 after practicing for more than seven years at a litigation firm ben-d-mcaninchin Birmingham, Alabama.  Ben’s practice was devoted primarily to the defense of physicianshospitals and other health care providers in medical malpractice cases.

He gained significant trial experience while in Alabama and was named a partner at that firm in February of 2009. Since his return to Minnesota, Ben’s practice has been focused on general civil litigationinsurance defenseagricultural litigation and probate litigation.

Ben has proven his great litigation skills as indicated below for some of his most notable cases:

  • Obtained a favorable opinion from the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit while representing two landowners against Grinnell Mutual Insurance Company in an insurance coverage dispute.  Grinnell declined to provide coverage pursuant to its farm liability policy when an ATV injury occurred on their property.  The Federal District Court Judge and Eighth Circuit agreed with our interpretation of the relevant policy language and ordered Grinnell to provide coverage.
  • Defended insured driver and owner of vehicle to jury verdict in Brown County, Minnesota.  The jury awarded damages near our previous offer but significantly lower than plaintiff’s demand.
  • Defended insured driver to jury verdict in Martin County, Minnesota.  The jury assessed damages against our client in an amount less than our previous offer.
  • Defended underinsured motorist claim on behalf of a national insurance company before a jury in Olmsted County.  The jury returned a verdict which reflected that there was no claim for underinsured motorist benefits.
  • Successful representation of a sanitary district in a three-day contested case hearing which resulted in the Administrative Law Judge and MPCA finding in favor of the district.
  • Successful representation of farming heirs in a trial involving a probate dispute/will contest which resulted in nearly all claims being denied.  The Court returned a verdict far below our clients’ previous offer of settlement.
  • Defended a bus company and its driver from injury claims following an accident in McLeod County. The jury returned a verdict below the offer of settlement made by the defense.

If you’d like to contact Ben, give him a call at 507-345-1166.

Overtime Rule Back on the Table – DOL Requests Feedback

Aug. 03, 2017

Under the Obama Administration, new rules regarding overtime were set to go into effect December 1, 2016.  However, a federal judge in Texas but the brakes on the Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) new overtime rule which would have doubled the FLSA’s salary threshold for the “White Collar” exemptions from overtime pay and would have automatically adjusted the threshold every three years beginning in 2020.

This topic is now being readdressed.  If you are interested in providing feedback regarding defining and delimiting the exemptions for executive, administrative, professional, outside sales and computer employees, the DOL is asking for your help.

DOL has issued a Request for Information (RFI) offering the public the opportunity to provide information that will aid the Department in formulating a proposal to revise these regulations.

The RFI solicits feedback on questions related to the salary level test, the duties test, inclusion of non-discretionary bonuses and incentive payments to satisfy a portion of the salary level, the salary test for highly compensated employees, and automatic updating of the salary tests.

The 60 day comment period for all issues raised in the RFI ends on September 25, 2017.  For more information, go here .

If you have any questions regarding employment law issues, contact our employment law attorneys at 504-345-1166.

 

Divorce – I Don’t Know Where to Start

Jul. 27, 2017

Written by Beth Serrill

Meeting with a divorce attorney can be stressful.  Spending some time reflecting and gathering information before your meeting can insure that the meeting meets your needs.

Knowledge is power and the fear of the unknown can be paralyzing.  Sometimes understanding the process…and getting reassurance that there is a light at the end of the tunnel…is helpful in analyzing options and deciding next steps.  Not everyone who meets with a divorce attorney gets a divorce and setting up an appointment doesn’t mean you’re giving up on the marriage.  Some people are ready for an action plan and hearing an attorney’s specific thoughts on strategy and steps to take can help you decide if the attorney is a good fit for you.

Below are some topics that you should think about in preparation of a meeting:

  • Kids (if you have them)

What schedule are you following now?  Is it a good fit?

What schedule do you think would be best for your kids long term?

  • Finances

You don’t have to have any financial information to have a productive initial consultation, but some pieces of information can be helpful in tailoring the conversation.  At the same time, don’t stress if you don’t handle the finances and don’t know much about your financial position.  If you can, consider reviewing the following:  mortgage statement, tax assessed value of the house, checking/savings account statements, credit cards, vehicles, and retirement/investment accounts.

  • Nonmarital claims

Did you own anything prior to the marriage?

Did you sell a house and use the proceeds to buy a marital home?

Did you have a retirement account prior to the marriage?

Have you inherited anything since you got married?

Have you been involved in any lawsuits that resulted in payments?

Did you have any debt coming into the marriage?

Were you in college?  Did you have any student loans?

You should also consider what type of an attorney you want.  An initial consultation is an opportunity to interview an attorney and to decide if they seem like a good fit.  Be sure to ask the following questions:

What’s their personality like? 

Are you comfortable talking to them and asking questions? 

Do they explain things in a way that’s easy for you to understand?

What’s their approach to family law?  Does that fit with what you want?

What ideas do they have to try to solve problems and reach agreements?

How long have they been practicing?

How big is their firm? What staff will be working with you? Are there other attorneys with helpful practice areas such as Business and Real Estate?

What do they think is a reasonable amount of time to return phone calls?  Emails?  Do they respond to emails after hours or on weekends?  What is their anticipated timeline?

Choosing an attorney is a big decision and just because someone says they practice in family law doesn’t mean they should.  Trust your instincts and if you don’t feel like the attorney is a good fit, schedule a consultation with another attorney.  Considering some of these items may make your initial consultation more productive and helpful to you. 

Beth Serrill is a Family Law attorney with Blethen, Gage and Krause.  If you are considering a divorce and would like a consultation, you may contact her at 507-345-1166 or at bserrill@blethenlaw.com.

Beth Serrill – Attorney of the Month

Jul. 10, 2017

Beth Serrill joined the firm in August 2005 and focuses her practice in the areas of Employment Law and Family Law.  She represents companies in all areas of employment law including unemployment, discrimination and general liability issues.  Beth works closely with human resource professionals to create policies and anticipate and handle employee issues and employment law litigation.   She also helps educate managers and staff about employment law issues through presentations and written materials.  Beth also handles complex business litigation as well as appeals.

Beth earned her Bachelor of Arts degree and her J.D. degree from the University of Iowa.  For the last four years, she has earned the distinguished award as a “Rising Star” in the Minnesota legal community from Minnesota Law and Politics.

Outside of work, Beth has been involved with various community boards including YMCA, SMILES, and the Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota.  She also enjoys spending time with her husband and daughter.

If you’d like to talk to Beth about your employment or family law needs, you can call 507-345-1166 or send an email to bserrill@blethenlaw.com

Best of Mankato – 3 Years in a Row

Jul. 10, 2017

Blethen, Gage & Krause is excited to announce that for the third year in a row, we have been selected by Best of 2017 MankatoMankato Magazine as Mankato’s #1 law firm.  The people of Mankato and surrounding communities vote to determine who will be selected for this prestigious recognition.  We are truly honored to receive this award and wish to thank our clients and business partners for this acknowledgment.  We are proud to be a part of this vibrant community!

 

2017 Super Lawyers & Rising Stars Selected

Jul. 06, 2017

Blethen, Gage and Krause is pleased to announce that seven Blethen attorneys have been selected to the 2017 Minnesota Super Lawyers and 2017 Minnesota Rising Stars lists.

The following Blethen attorneys were selected as Super Lawyers:  Julia Ketcham Corbett (Employment & Labor), Ben McAninch (PI General: Defense), Christopher Roe (Estate & Probate) and James Turk (Alternative Dispute Resolution).

The following Blethen attorneys were selected as Rising Stars:  Beth Serrill (Employment & Labor), Kevin Velasquez (General Litigation), and Jeffrey Grace (Civil Litigation: Defense).

Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional development.  The selection process is multi-phased and includes independent research, peer nominations, and peer evaluations.  Congratulations to each of the attorneys selected for this honor!

 

Summons and Complaints – What Does it Mean?

Jun. 16, 2017

Written by Jacob Sherlock

There are few more stressful situations than having a process server hand you a Summons and Complaint.  This signals the start of dreaded “L” word – litigation.  While the term litigation may bring to mind multimillion dollar lawsuits between large corporations, it can encompass matters from the largest corporate lawsuit to a boundary line dispute between two neighbors.  Whether you are involved in a traffic accident, a business dispute, or are served with divorce papers, it is important to know what to do next after you are served with a Summons and Complaint.

In most cases in Minnesota, it is the service of the Summons and Complaint that begins a legal action, not the filing of a Complaint with the Court.  As a result, if you are served with a Summons and Complaint and you do not find your name in the Minnesota Court Public Access system, it does not mean that you are in the clear.  In most cases, the Plaintiff has one year from the date you are served with the Summons and Complaint to actually file the case with the District Court.

The most important thing you can do after being served is to not ignore the Summons and Complaint.  The first reaction of many people after being confronted with bad news is to pretend the bad news doesn’t exist.  In the litigation context however, this is one of the worst things you can do.  When served with a Summons and Complaint you must act quickly to protect your rights.  You must serve your Answer to the Complaint upon the Plaintiff within 20 days after you are served with the Summons and Complaint.  If the Answer is not served in time (or at all), you run the risk of waiving your rights in the lawsuit, and of the Plaintiff obtaining a default judgment against you.  A default judgment is exactly as it sounds – the Plaintiff wins its case against you by default.  A default judgment can be overturned in certain circumstances, however it is an uphill battle that can be avoided by submitting the Answer in a timely fashion.

The second most important thing you can do after being served is to take immediate action.  If you intend to seek legal counsel to assist you in your matter (and whether it is with our firm or another attorney, it is highly recommended that you retain counsel), it is important that you do so as soon as possible after receiving the Summons and Complaint.  The longer you wait, the harder it will be to find someone who will be able to take your case on a short notice.

Depending on your circumstances, you may feel that you cannot afford an attorney and must go it alone, or you may feel that you can provide yourself with adequate representation and do not need an attorney.  Proceeding on your own in a lawsuit is called proceeding pro se.  Every defendant has a legal right to proceed pro se, but be advised that the law requires the court to hold a pro se defendant to the same level as a seasoned attorney.  While some pro se litigants are able to reach a favorable result in their case by representing themselves, most often it is a better idea to hire knowledgeable legal counsel to navigate the legal waters for you.

The third most important thing you can do after being served is to avoid posting anything on social media about your case.  You may be tempted to take to your social media platform of choice to vent, to seek advice, or for other reasons, but keep in mind, you must treat everything that is posted on social media as public information.  If you post on social media about your case, there is no guarantee that the other side won’t see it, and won’t try to find a way to use your post against you.  However, if you do post social media about your case, whether before service of the Summons and Complaint or after, it is important that you do not delete any posts or other information already in the ether.  If you do, the other side may attempt bring a destruction of evidence (or “spoliation” for the complex legal term) claim against you, which may result in sanctions, and may have an adverse impact on your case.

Ultimately, in the event you are served with a Summons and Complaint, it is important to keep a level head, and to address the matter promptly, rather than becoming the proverbial ostrich and burying your head in the sand.  Blethen, Gage & Krause has a wealth of experience in litigation defense matters, and we would be happy to discuss your situation with you to make sure your rights are protected.  Contact attorney Jake Sherlock, or any of our other attorneys specializing in litigation defense, at 507-345-1166.