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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  • 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.

  • What is the Computer Abuse and Fraud Act?


    The Computer Abuse and Fraud Act (CFAA) is a broad federal law that criminalizes numerous activities related to computers and computer networks. The CFAA is not only a criminal law, but also gives private individuals and corporations the right to sue to recover damages.

    The Act forbids anyone from accessing a computer "without authorization." The courts have interpreted this to mean that violating a company's terms of service is equivalent to "accessing that company's computers without authorization." Because the law threatens to burden free expression conduct (such as journalists or researchers using automated web browsing tools), some critics, including free speech advocates have voiced criticism of the CFAA's role in social media censorship.

  • In South Dakota, what is an uncontested divorce?


    In South Dakota, an “uncontested divorce” is a divorce where both spouses are in complete agreement regarding every single issue. This means that the parties agree on how to divide their assets (their stuff) and debts (their bills), about how to handle any child custody and visitation issues for their children, about who will make child support payments and any spousal support payment, as well as how much those payments will be, etc. The spouses have typically been able to reduce their agreement to writing, whether with or without the help of a family law attorney and there are no outstanding disagreements to resolve between them.

  • Why is it important to keep updated during my South Dakota divorce case?


    You need to keep updated during your divorce case. Read over the documents your attorney sends you as soon as you receive them. If you have questions, don't be afraid to ask. If you ask a question, your attorney should be able to help you answer that questions. In the end, getting an answer to a question will allow you to be more informed and more confident in the decisions you make.


    Don't "stick your head in the sand" when it comes to communicating with your attorney. Don't avoid opening mail, reading emails, and taking phone calls. This will lead to more stress in the long run. Many decisions in a family law case may be time-sensitive, so if you avoid contact, you may be damaging your case without realizing it.

  • South Dakota Cyber Law - What is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act?


    The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA) was the foundation of an effort by Congress to implement United States treaty obligations and to move the nation's copyright law into the digital age. But as Congress recognized, the only thing that remains constant is change. The enactment of the DMCA was only the beginning of an ongoing evaluation by Congress on the relationship between technological change and U.S. copyright law. 

    The DMCA is divided into five titles:

    • Title I, the “WIPO Copyright and Performances and Phonograms Treaties Implementation Act of 1998,” implements the WIPO treaties.  
    • Title II, the “Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act,” creates limitations on the liability of online service providers for copyright infringement when engaging in certain types of activities.
    • Title III, the “Computer Maintenance Competition Assurance Act,” creates an exemption for making a copy of a computer program by activating a computer for purposes of maintenance or repair.
    • Title IV contains six miscellaneous provisions, relating to the functions of the Copyright Office, distance education, the exceptions in the Copyright Act for libraries and for making ephemeral recordings, “webcasting” of sound recordings on the Internet, and the applicability of collective bargaining agreement obligations in the case of transfers of rights in motion pictures.
    • Title V, the “Vessel Hull Design Protection Act,” creates a new form of protection for the design of vessel hulls. 

  • Do I really need an estate plan?

    You already have an estate plan. In fact, even if you don’t know it, you have already made many estate planning decisions. For example, choosing to have a will or not have a will is an estate plan. How you have titled your property is an estate plan. Naming a beneficiary for your life insurance, retirement plan, or 401(k) is an estate plan. Therefore, you may as well take control of your estate plan by understanding what you are doing.

    Our law firm is often asked, “What happens if I die 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. For example, 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.    

    The persons who take your property under South Dakota’s intestate succession laws are known as your heirs. Depending on the circumstances, these laws may divide your property among your spouse, children, parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents, or other relatives. Unfortunately, it is likely that your wishes would have been completely different from the estate plan that the State of South Dakota has written for you.

    One excuse many people give for not writing a will is that they think wills are only for “rich people.” However, even small estates must go through the probate process. Other people believe that a will is simply too expensive. However, a will that is carefully considered and precisely written actually pays for itself and provides you with peace of mind.  

  • Do I have to wait to meet with an estate planning attorney until I decide if I want a will or a trust?

    Absolutely not. Your attorney should be a key player in helping you determine what the best fit is for you and your loved ones. After your attorney learns more about you and your goals, your attorney will be able to review the advantages and disadvantages of a will or a trust based on your individual circumstances. This gives you guidance on the right fit for you far above the level of specificity Google can provide.

  • My financial advisor told me I do not need an estate plan if I use beneficiary designations on all of my accounts. Is this true?

    This depends highly on your goals and net worth and is almost never the right choice unless you have very few assets (under $50,000, you have no debts, and your goals align with a simple distribution). Without a cohesive estate plan, your family is often left picking up the pieces and trying to make sense of the mess you left behind. Your financial advisor is likely thinking solely about avoiding probate. However, the goal in good estate planning is more than just avoiding probate. Assets with beneficiary designations (outside of your trust) pass to those individuals upon your death without going through the probate process. However, by bypassing your estate, your loved ones may not have the assets or liquidity needed to pay your final expenses. Further, the assets received by your beneficiaries through these designations are subject to creditors and divorce.  Using beneficiary designations as a substitute to creating an estate plan almost always results in greater tax and liability exposure for you and your loved ones.

  • I consider myself pretty intelligent and am savvy on a computer. Can’t I just save some time and complete my estate plan online?

    Do it yourself estate plans DO NOT WORK. Period. Would you tell your patient to give themselves a physical? Or to just look at that mole and compare it with pictures online to determine themselves if it is cancerous? There are many different considerations qualified estate planning attorneys make with drafting your documents. It is not a simple “fill in the blank” process.

    With the advent of the digital age, DIY wills and trusts are becoming one of the most highly litigated areas of the law. Don’t leave yourself or your loved ones unprotected and subject to expensive litigation. Taking the time now to complete your estate plan will save your loved ones considerable time, expense, and chaos down the road. Plus, it will ensure you leave a lasting legacy for your loved ones.

  • My attorney recommended I place certain assets in my trust. I don’t feel like I have the time to do this as I have three small children and am busy. What would you recommend?

    If you do not take the time to transfer your assets as recommended by your attorney, your trust will not operate as you intend. This may result in your assets going through probate or to individuals in an unprotected manner. It is crucial to take the time to fund your trust. Many attorneys will assist you with this process if needed. Generally, there are additional fees for such services and you may still need to communicate with your financial institutions directly before they will work with your attorney on your behalf.