Get Answers to Your Highest Priority South Dakota Legal Questions

Have questions? We have answers! Our South Dakota attorneys answer the questions they hear most often from clients just like you.

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  • My grandmother recently passed away in Spearfish and I've been told that she died "testate." What does "testate" mean?


    In South Dakota, a person who dies with a will is said to have died "testate."

  • I've just been appointed as Personal Representative of my uncle's estate in Madison. In South Dakota, can I be paid for my personal representative services?


    Yes.  Under South Dakota law, a Personal Representative is entitled to reasonable compensation for services.

  • My grandfather lives in Brookings. In South Dakota, what happens if he passes away without a will?

    Under South Dakota law, if your grandfather passes away without a will he is:

    • Surrendering to the state of South Dakota the important decisions affecting the well-being and future security of his heirs
    • At risk of having his property divided in a way that's not to his liking
    • Foregoing any opportunities to reduce his taxes

  • How do I choose an attorney who is a good fit for my South Dakota divorce case?


    Going through a divorce is a major life event, therefore it's vital that you choose an attorney you're absolutely comfortable with throughout the process. It's always good to get recommendations from those you trust most in your support network, but make sure you interview each attorney before making a final hiring decision.


    If you find yourself sitting across from the attorney and you aren't at ease enough to tell them everything they need to know about your case, move on to the next name on the list. Most attorneys charge a consultation fee for these initial appointments, but that fee is far less expensive than paying thousands of dollars to retain an attorney you don't feel completely comfortable working with during your case. 

  • What other estate planning documents should I have?


    Besides a last will and testament or trust, everyone should have a financial power of attorney, health care power of attorney, and a living will.  

    If you want to know more about all 4 of these essential documents, please see our book Estate Planning in South Dakota

  • What makes a “good” Last Will and Testament?


    A good Last Will and Testament is comprehensive, clearly-written, easy to administer, and has the capability to stand up in court and fulfill your wishes. 

    Poorly written, out-of-date wills can leave behind headaches that can take years (and a lot of money) to fix. Wills crafted by concerned, yet untrained, friends or websites can often rob a family of its rightful inheritance. Who hasn’t heard the stories where people have forgotten to change their wills to reflect changing family relationships and situations?

    Creating a valid and enforceable Last Will and Testament is not as easy as many people believe. If you expect your Last Will and Testament to do what you want it to do, you definitely need an attorney to help you. South Dakota's courts will not “guess” what you meant to write - they will read and interpret what is written according to the law . . . no matter the results.

  • Why would I need an expert in my South Dakota divorce case?


    If your case is complicated, you may need to hire experts to handle certain custody, financial, or property issues. These experts can include forensic custody evaluators, psychologists, psychiatrists, business evaluators, forensic accountants, financial advisors, or tax planners.

    Your attorney should have a list to recommend which experts are right for your case. If you can get a team of experts together, you won't need to worry about whether your soon-to-be ex-spouse is taking advantage of you in the divorce proceeding.    

  • How Can I Enhance My Website's Domain Name?


    A website is a basic element for any business today. When creating a domain name, many businesses settle on something that fits their product, but fail to reap the full potential of domain-naming by failing to make it a trademark. If you want to make dual use of your domain name, as not only a place in cyber space and but also as a trademark in which your have an ownership interest, keep the following in mind:

    • The standards for acquiring a domain name and a trademark are different. Just because a domain name is available doesn't mean it's capable of being trademarked. Trademark is governed by state and federal law and has completely different requirements.


    • The purpose of trademark is to distinguish your business from competitors. Don't get fixated on a domain name that's identical to your business name. If it's available, great. But if it's not, you can probably come up with a domain name that echoes your business name and that is distinct enough to earn trademark protection. 


    • Think about trademarking early. Trademarking in cyber space is competitive. Tons of businesses establish an online presence every day. Business in cyber space happens so fast that your opportunity could be gone in an instant. 

    The above considerations are provided for informational purposes only. To find out the requirements for trademark, and whether your domain name could become intellectual property, it is best to consult with an attorney.  

  • Should I fight over every Christmas ornament and board game in my South Dakota divorce?


    Not usually. Unfortunately, some people going through a divorce will fight over every single piece of property. Don't do this. Those ugly Christmas ornaments that you despise? Those board games that you haven't played in ten years?

    You can spend thousands of dollars in attorney time fighting to keep them. The short-lived gratification you may get by retaining these items will only increase your stress. Deciding what is really most important to you will help reduce your stress during the divorce.  

  • In South Dakota, what is a contested divorce?


    Because uncontested divorces only exist in cases of total agreement, most of the cases in circuit court are considered “contested divorces,” those in which there are issues that remain in controversy (the spouses disagree about how to resolve them). In other words, even a seemingly minor issue can prevent a divorce from being “uncontested” as every single issue must be agreed upon before an agreement is complete and able to be approved by the circuit court.