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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  • What determines who is at fault in a car, truck, motorcycle, or bicycle accident?

    Determining who is at fault in a traffic accident is a matter of deciding who was careless.  For South Dakota vehicle accidents, there is a set of official written rules telling people how they are supposed to drive and providing guidelines by which liability may be measured.  These "rules of the road" are the traffic laws everyone must learn to pass the driver's license test.  Complete rules are contained in South Dakota's vehicle code, and they apply not only to automobiles but also to motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians.

    Sometimes a violation of one of these traffic rules is obvious and was clearly the cause of an accident -- for example, when one driver runs a stop sign and crashes into another.

    In other situations, whether or not there was a violation will be less obvious -- a common example is a crash that occurs when drivers both merge into a single lane of traffic.  These cases may be governed by the law of negligence. A driver, pedestrian, or cyclist who is "negligent" (that is, behaved in a thoughtless or careless manner) will be found at least partially at fault for causing the accident.

  • What should I do if I'm involved in a traffic accident?

    Take notes!

    One of the most important steps you can take is to document the entire situation by taking careful notes soon after your accident.  This single step can help make the entire claims process easier on you -- and increase your chances of receiving the compensation to which you are entitled.  Keeping notes to remind you of all the details of what happened, and what you went through, is much easier and more accurate than relying on your memory.

    Write things down as soon as you can: Start with what you were doing and where you were going, the people you were with, the time, and the weather.  Include every detail of what you saw, heard, and felt.  Be sure to add anything you remember hearing anyone -- a person involved in the accident or a witness -- say about the accident.

    Finally, make daily notes of the effects of your injuries. You may suffer pain, discomfort, anxiety, loss of sleep, or other problems which are not as visible or serious as another injury, but for which you may be entitled to further compensation.

  • How long does probate take in South Dakota?

    The answer varies for each estate. The most important factors are often how many personal representatives and beneficiaries are involved and what type of assets does the estate hold?  The more personal representatives and beneficiaries, the more likely there is to be a dispute and or a lengthy court process. Generally, most probates that our law firm helps to administer are closed within 6 to 12 months. 

  • Who has to pay federal estate tax?

    Once you're worth more than a certain amount, taxes "shrink" your estate.  Under the 2010 tax law, you can transfer up to $5 million tax-free during your life or at death.  This figure, called the basic exclusion amount, is also adjusted for inflation.  In 2012, this amount was raised to $5.12 million per person.  The new tax law does not change how much you can pass tax-free. On Jan. 11, 2013, the IRS announced that, with the inflation adjustment, the estate tax exclusion amount for deaths in 2013 would be $5.25 million. 

  • What is a trust in South Dakota?

    A trust agreement in South Dakota is a document that sets out the rules that you want followed for property held in trust for your beneficiaries. Common objectives for creating trusts are to reduce the estate tax liability, to avoid probate, and to protect property in your estate.

    Think of a trust as a special box in which ordinary property from your estate goes in and, as the result of some type of transformation that occurs, takes on a new identity and often is bestowed with super powers: immunity from estate taxes, resistance to probate, and so on.

    Suppose that you want to set up a trust. Just like with a baking recipe, you need to make sure you have everything you need before you start. To create up a trust, you need these basic ingredients:

    • Person setting up the trust. The person is commonly known as the trustor, though you may sometimes see the terms settlor or grantor.

    • Objective of the trust. You use different types of trusts to achieve a variety of specific estate-planning objectives. You can use some trusts for a single estate-planning objective, while others help you achieve more than one goal.

    • Specific kind of trust. Trusts come in many different varieties. Regardless, when you’re setting up a trust, you need to decide what type of trust you want and make sure that you follow all the rules for that particular type of trust to make sure that it’s proper and legal, and carries out your intentions.

    • Property. After you place property into a trust, that property is formally known as trust property.

    • Beneficiary. Just like with other aspects of your estate plan (your will, for example), a trust’s beneficiary (or, if more than one, beneficiaries) benefits from the trust in some way, usually because the person or institution will eventually receive some or all of the property that was placed into trust.

    • Trustee. The person in charge of the trust is known as the trustee. The trustee needs to understand the rules for the type of trust he is managing to make sure everything in the trust stays in working order.

    • Rules. Finally, some of the rules that must be followed are inherently part of the type of trust used, while other rules depend on what is specified in the trust agreement.

  • Does a wife have to pay the federal estate tax when she inherits from her husband?

    No, there is an unlimited deduction from federal estate and gift tax that postpones the tax on assets inherited from one spouse until the second spouse dies.  However, this marital deduction applies only if the inheriting spouse is a United States citizen.

  • I did not think I had any injuries, but now I’m starting to feel pain after my South Dakota car wreck. What should I do?

    When you have been involved in a car accident in South Dakota, you are filled with adrenaline at the scene of the collision after a terrifying experience. This adrenaline has been known to mask the pain of some injuries from car accidents in South Dakota. In fact, many people think that they are fine, but days later find that they are in pain and unable to carry out daily activities as they once did. When this happens, it is important that you do a few things to help your claim and get the compensation you deserve for your injuries.

    Here are a few steps you must take.

    • Seek medical care. The faster you get into the doctor to get your pain and injuries checked out, the better. This will provide you relief from your symptoms faster and show the insurance company that it did not take long for your injuries to appear.
    • Be honest with your doctor and get documentation. You should tell your doctor right away that you were involved in a South Dakota auto accident. This will help the doctor know how to document your injuries so that you can submit his report to the insurance company.
    • Get representation. Because did not seek medical attention immediately after the accident, you may need to get legal representation on your side if you hope to get the insurance company to pay your medical bills. Contact a car accident attorney in South Dakota for help in understanding the next steps you must take in your insurance claim.

    For help with your injuries, get medical attention first, and then put an auto accident lawyer in South Dakota on your side. Call Swier Law Firm today to schedule a consultation with an attorney about your case.