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Robert Russell
Robert Russell

The POWER 30: Robert Russell

Robert L. Russell, Attorney at Law

Robert Russell practices real estate, estate planning, business formation and other commercial law  in Fergus Falls and also serves as vice chair of the Minnesota State Bar Association Real Property Section Council, and is thus the incoming chair. He is also the co-chair of the title standards committee.

Minnesota has 119 title standards, first promulgated in 1947. “We keep them updated, then new issues arise,” Russell said.  For example, transfer on death deeds required a new white page. Additionally, a lot of trusts own property now, and people refer to trusts in different ways, causing confusion. The committee is looking at a standard that would deal with trusts with different names, Russell said.

Additionally, the committee thinks something should be put in the white pages about the effect of tribal court orders — can they stand on their own or must they be approved by a state district court.

Russell is a proponent of plain language in documents. He noted that the MSBA has a purchase agreement form, and so do Realtors, but they are different.

“I’d like to see us promote the bar association forms. They do a better job of protecting both sides. The benefit of having simplified language is that if the parties can understand a document, they finish reading it,” he said.

Trusts and LLCs seem to be attractive to many people now as a way to deal with property without going through probate, Russell said. A lot of estate planning entails advising how property can be held, he said.

“People come to me before there’s a problem so it’s about building a consensus. I explain how the land would descend if nothing was done. Then they figure out they don’t want that to happen. It’s more rewarding when you’re planning ahead,” Russell said.