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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Office is Moving!

Our office has moved to St. Paul in the Midway area. Our new address is:

2356 University Ave. West #230
St. Paul, MN 55114

We are keeping our same phone number (952-915-9215). Give us a call to schedule an appointment!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Life insurance beneficiary forms - common mistakes

Filling out the beneficiary form for your life insurance can be more tricky than you think. There are several common mistakes, including:
  • Naming a minor child without designating how the money should be distributed. Money cannot be given directly to a minor child. It needs to be placed in a trust account or special account for minors such as an UTMA or UGMA account.
  • Forgetting to update the beneficiary form. An insurance policy is a contract, and the money will generally be distributed how your beneficiary form says it should be done. If you have your wife as your beneficiary, and get divorced but forget to change the beneficiary designation, usually the proceeds will go to your ex-wife.
  • Only naming one beneficiary. If you only name one beneficiary, and that person predeceases you, there will be no beneficiary. Make sure to name at least one secondary beneficiary.

The problems caused by a mistake on a beneficiary form will not impact you, but will greatly impact those you love.

Check out more tips in this article.

We advise both insureds and beneficiaries who have questions or problems with life insurance. Contact our office if you would like more information.  

Friday, November 13, 2015

Star Tribune Article on Disabled Adults

 As attorneys who represent persons with varying disabilities, a recent article in the Star Tribune discussing the menial jobs given to people with disabilities was heartbreaking. The article talks about "sheltered workshops", where workers are paid wages for below the minimum wage and given tasks that are menial and unrewarding.

"Many states, inspired by a new civil rights movement to integrate the disabled into mainstream life, are shuttering places like this. Not Minnesota. It still subsidizes nearly 300 sheltered workshops and is now among the most segregated states in the nation for working people with intellectual disabilities.

The workshops are part of a larger patchwork of state policies that are stranding legions of disabled Minnesotans on grim margins of society. More than a decade after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Americans with disabilities have a right to live in the mainstream, many disabled Minnesotans and their families say they still feel forsaken — mired in profoundly isolating and sometimes dangerous environments they didn’t choose and can’t escape."

Full article: click here

Hopefully the attention given to this issue will inspire some changes in how Minnesota views its responsibilities to the disabled adult residents of our state.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Kate talks Obergefell and same-sex marriage

Kate recently had the opportunity to speak at Minnesota CLE about the recent decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ___, 135 S. Ct. 2584, 192 L.Ed. 2d 609 (6/26/15).

In the ground-breaking decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the Court’s majority, held that the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses afford same-sex couples the fundamental right to marry in all states. Additionally, the Supreme Court majority held that the same constitutional protections require a state to recognize a same-sex marriage lawfully licensed by and performed in another state.

Kate discussed the reasoning behind the decision and its implications on other areas of law such as employee benefits and religious expression.

You can see the telecast of the live CLE on September 3, 2015. For more information go to: Minnesota CLE video replay   

Thursday, August 27, 2015

ERISA is a current hot topic in the federal courts!

There has been a considerable amount of interest recently in ERISA at all levels of the federal courts. Having a lawyer who understands and can navigate this complicated and changing area is critical to whether your case will be successful.

This article discusses why a business should hire experienced ERISA lawyers:

Top 10 reasons to have an ERISA litigator on speed dial

Although we represent claimants, the reasons behind hiring a lawyer who understands ERISA are still on point. It is exciting to hear that ERISA is such a hot topic!


Thursday, June 4, 2015

Kate and Sarah are North Star Lawyers!

Kate and Sarah were recognized as North Star Lawyers for providing pro bono service to those in need of legal service but unable to afford it. Here we are holding the announcement in the Star Tribune:

Thursday, May 28, 2015

FAQ: When should I get an attorney involved in my disability/life insurance/pension issue?

                There are three common times when you should think about involving an attorney in your ERISA employee benefits dispute or claim: (1) when submitting an application for benefits, (2) after the denial of benefits, and (3) at the commencement of litigation. Here is why you might choose to retain an attorney at any one of these times.

                You might decide to hire an attorney to submit your application or claim for benefits. This is a good strategy if you have a complicated situation or issue that may affect your application. One example might be if you are applying for long-term disability benefits after being terminated from employment or quitting from your job. Another example might be if your disabling condition is complicated your application for disability benefits may require some explanation as to why you can no longer perform you job. Applications are time consuming and complicated, so sometimes people hire an attorney to handle the application because he or she does not have the time or energy to devote to making sure the insurer receives all the information necessary. As long as your benefit plan is governed by ERISA, you will be allowed a chance to appeal any decision made by the plan administrator that is adverse to you, so many claimants choose to apply for benefits on their own and then hire an attorney only if they are denied.

                The most common time individuals hire an attorney is after he or she has had a pension, life insurance, or disability benefit denied. The attorney can then submit an administrative appeal for the claimant. An administrative appeal is a written appeal to the plan administrator explaining why the decision to deny benefits was wrong, and submitting any new evidence in support of the claim. An administrative appeal is VERY important, because once it is submitted you are frequently no longer allowed to submit any new evidence to support your claim to the insurer. Generally, it is best to consult an attorney when submitting your administrative appeal, so you can be sure the evidence in the administrative record (everything submitted to the plan administrator by you, and everything the plan administrator gathers or creates on its own in regards to your claim) is as complete as possible so the insurer can make a full and fair review of your claim for benefits.

                Once you have completed all your administrative appeals, the only option to pursue your case further is usually to bring a lawsuit in federal court. At this phase, you should almost always hire an attorney to represent you in your case. ERISA cases have complex legal issues like how much deference should be given to the insurer’s decision. It is best to have good legal representation once litigation begins.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Article about Kate in Minnesota Lawyer

From the article in Minnesota Lawyer about Kate:

“'Kate MacKinnon has been a solo or very small firm lawyer for many years, a group that deserves more recognition in the legal community generally,' said Hennepin County District Court Judge Mary Vasaly, who nominated MacKinnon for Attorney of the Year.  “In the many years she (MacKinnon) has practiced in this community she has demonstrated her excellence and professionalism. She focuses on ERISA and appeals, two very difficult areas, particularly for a solo practitioner.”

"One of MacKinnon’s recent significant legal victories was a landmark reversal in an insurance coverage case. In Jacky L. Larson v. The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co., the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that the insurer acted improperly when it refused to pay the death benefit for an insured.  The court said the rescission of an insurance policy 'requires proof of the insured’s subjective intent to deceive.'"
"MacKinnon said she loves being a lawyer because of the intellectual problems she gets to handle. “It is fascinating and interesting. It is never dull.'"
Read more about Kate's 2014 Attorney of the Year Award in Minnesota Lawyer here:

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Attorney of the Year Ceremony

Kate was recently recognized as an Attorney of the Year for 2014 by Minnesota Lawyer. Here are pictures of Kate receiving her award:

It was a lovely ceremony. The attorneys recognized had made incredible contributions. It was a great honor, and Kate was thrilled. Thank you to everyone who has reached out with to congratulate her!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Unemployment Compensation Appeal Argument

Here are pictures from Sarah Demers' argument at the Minnesota Court of Appeals today! The case was an appeal of a denial of unemployment compensation benefits.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Administrative Appeal Exhaustion

If the insurer makes an "adverse benefits determination" (meaning a decision that is in some way not favorable to you - such as terminating or denying your benefits claim), ERISA regulations require that you be allowed to submit an administrative appeal to the insurer. The administrative appeal must be submitted to the insurer within a time frame that is determined by the type of benefit for which you are making a claim, and should include all information you can gather in support of your claim. The administrative appeal is VERY important because once the insurer has received you appeal, there is no other chance to submit any new information. The insurer will decide whether to stand by or reverse its original decision based on what you have submitted. If the insurer decides to stand by its original decision to deny or terminate your benefits, your only recourse is usually to bring a case in federal court.

Sometimes people ask us why they should bother with submitting the administrative appeal. Maybe you are sure the insurer will deny the appeal anyway. Or maybe you are in a hurry - administrative appeals take time and money to prepare, and you may end having to bring a lawsuit in the end anyway. Why not bypass all that hassle and go right to court?

The answer is that ERISA requires you to do all required administrative appeals before bringing a lawsuit. If you initiate a lawsuit before completing the administrative appeals, your lawsuit will be dismissed without being heard. While there are a few exceptions to this rule, generally you must submit all required administrative appeal process before going to court.

If you have questions about administrative appeals, you can contact us at the Law Office of Katherine L. MacKinnon for a consultation on your case.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Katherine MacKinnon named an Attorney of the Year for 2014!

Kate was recently named an Attorney of the Year for 2014 by Minnesota Lawyer. This is a wonderful honor, and Kate is thrilled to be in the company of the other attorneys who have received this award.

Congratulations, Kate!

To read the entire article in Minnesota Lawyer about all the honorees, click here.