Get Answers to Your Highest Priority South Dakota Legal Questions

Swier Law Firm FAQ


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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  • What is the "basis" of an asset?

    The "basis"of an asset is what a person has paid for an asset together with money invested in an asset after purchase. This determines gain/loss for income tax purposes.

    Example: You purchased your house for $100,000, but have since had to put on a new roof for $3,000, you added on a garage for $10,000, and updated the windows for $4,000. Your new basis in your house is now $117,000 ($100,000 + $3,000 + $10,000 + $4,000).

  • What is a "stepped-down" basis?

    The "basis" of an asset is what a person has paid for an asset together with money invested in an asset after purchase This determines gain/loss for income tax purposes.

    A "stepped-down" basis is the same as the "stepped-up" basis - except the asset has gone down in value since it was purchased. The new owner would take that asset with a new lower (stepped-down) basis. This depends on the value as of the date-of-death of the owner compared to the price the owner originally purchased the asset.

    Example: Dad was convinced that AOL was going to make a comeback. He bought it for $50,000 and it’s now worth $10,000. Instead of selling his AOL stock at a loss during his lifetime he held onto it. I now own it with a basis of $10,000.

  • What is a South Dakota "trust company"?

    A South Dakota "trust company" is an institution specializing in the management of trusts. There are lots of trust companies in South Dakota because of the favorable trust laws of our state. They serve as a corporate trustee and can have roles ranging from specific to general depending on the needs of the family. These roles can change over the years.

    Example: When we formed our South Dakota trust we had to hire a South Dakota trust company as the trustee so we can take advantage of South Dakota law, but we still have a lot of control over all the assets. It’s a win-win situation.

  • Is it legal for someone to accept money or other things of value in an adoption in South Dakota?

    No. In fact, under South Dakota law, any person who offers, gives or receives any money, or other consideration or thing of value, in connection with the placing of any child for adoption, with the consent to adoption, or with the petition for adoption except for charges approved by the court and fees charged by licensed agencies is guilty of a Class 6 felony.

  • Are uncertified school administrators subject to the South Dakota Professional Administrators Code of Ethics?

    Yes. In South Dakota, anyone employed in an administrative capacity, but who does not hold a valid South Dakota certificate, is subject to the code of professional ethics.

  • How long wlll it take to adopt?

    The time that it takes to adopt a child varies depending on the preferences and restrictions that you have. For example, you may be able to adopt a child from foster care or a child with special needs within a few months, while an international adoption may take years because it may involve multiple adoption agencies and immigration paperwork. If you are unwilling to wait for a long time, you should consider being more flexible in the types of children whom you are willing to consider.

  • How does the State's "Back To Normal" Plan Impact School Districts?

    Under the State of South Dakota's newly-issued "Back to Normal" Plan, each school district should make its own decisions about the remainder of the school year. School districts are encouraged to take steps to contact all students and assess student learning.

  • What happens if someone dies without a Will in South Dakota?

    Our law firm is often asked, “What happens if someone dies without a Will?” The answer is that you will have made very significant (and likely unwise) estate planning decisions. If you die without a Will, South Dakota law dictates who gets your property. These laws are known as the laws of intestate succession.  


    In other words, if you die without a Will, the State of South Dakota has written a Will for you. The State also determines who gets your property, who will manage your estate, and who will serve as guardian of your minor children. Often, the State’s laws in these areas do not reflect what you would have really wanted.    

  • What is a "spendthrift clause"?

    A "Spendthrift Clause" is a clause added to a trust to protect assets in that trust from a beneficiary’s creditors or to prevent assignment of an inheritance before it is received. This can include protection from a spouse in divorce.

    Example: My dad put a spendthrift clause in his trust so even though I was supposed to get distributions already, the trustee won’t give me any money because I’m in the middle of a nasty divorce and they don’t want it taken from me.

  • What does "vesting" mean?

    A "Vested" interest means having an immediate interest in a piece of property or asset that a third party cannot take away. You can have a vested interest in something without yet having it and you can leave that vested interest to someone else in your will or even sell your interest.‚Äč