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Baton Rouge Legal Blog

Autonomous vehicles: Products liability on wheels

Tourists and commuters use various rideshare apps to travel to other destinations. Newly implemented vehicle technology launched in cities like Baton Rouge paves the way for products that require new legislation. With new legislation comes new safety definitions.

You should be safe while using your commercial product, especially when you rely on it to drive you.

Estate planning for separated spouses

Celebrity deaths like those of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain have drawn light to a particular issue in estate planning that can be just as significant for everyday families in Louisiana. While many spouses separate before divorcing and may hesitate to file divorce papers even as they lead separate lives, this can have unanticipated impacts on how key decisions and assets are handled in case of one spouse's death or incapacity. There are a number of reasons that can delay a formal divorce filing, especially if the separation is amicable; these can include informally handling child custody or sorting out the complications of businesses or other investments.

However, this means that a person's separated spouse is still their legal next of kin, with all the rights and responsibilities that accompany that. Especially when separated spouses are young and are not openly considering death, their estate plans may not reflect the changes to their relationship. Permanent separations are not uncommon in the United States; while the divorce rate is generally estimated at between 42 to 45 percent, that number can rise to 50 percent when permanent separations are included.

Proper valuation of collectibles important for estate plan

People who are considering estate planning in Louisiana should think not only about financial and real estate assets but collectibles and other assets as well. The Internal Revenue Service defines the term collectible to include works of art, antiques, precious metals and gems, rugs and other things that people might collect. The IRS has the power to make the determination whether a particular item is a collectible.

There are two ways, generally speaking, that a person might plan to distribute collectibles on his or her death. Someone might give the collectibles to charity or leave them to his or her heirs. If a collectible item is not specifically distributed via the estate plan, it may be liquidated, so its value can be distributed among the heirs. Families sometimes have disputes due to differing opinions as to the value of a particular collectible or collection of assets.

FMCSA notes increase in fatal large truck crashes in 2016

Despite advances in safety technology, large truck accidents are on the rise. This is according to a new data drill-down report from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The FMCSA has been able to evaluate accurate crash data from 2016, and it found that there was a 3 percent increase in fatal large truck accidents from the previous year. Drivers in Louisiana may want to know more about the details.

In all, 2016 saw a total of 4,317 fatalities, compared to the previous year's 4,094. The number of large trucks involved in crashes went up from 4,074 to 4,213. Part of the reason for the increase may be the greater number of registered trucks on the road, from 11.2 in 2015 to 11.5 million in 2016. In both years, though, the truck involvement rate was the same: 1.46 trucks in accidents for every 100 million miles driven.

What to know about selling a business

Business owners in Louisiana and elsewhere should take time to prepare themselves prior to selling their companies. If they know what the company is worth, it generally makes it easier to spot a fair deal and walk away from the business feeling content. To determine how much the company is worth, prospective sellers should look at what similar companies have sold for in the past.

It is important to understand how the organization's market value was determined as buyers will likely ask about the process behind the valuation. However, this is just one of many questions a buyer may ask, and sellers should be ready to answer them no matter how tedious it may be to do so. When preparing to sell a company, business owners should make sure that the company has been profitable over the past three years.

How to create a successful estate plan

Often, estate plans fail to produce as their creators believed that they would. The good news is that many of the failures can be prevented. Typically, an estate plan doesn't work because of human error or some other human element to the plan. For instance, a Louisiana heir may not be ready to inherit a home, money or other property from a parent or grandparent.

In some cases, this is because the heir doesn't have the emotional maturity to handle newfound wealth. Therefore, a beneficiary could make bad investments, spend the money quickly or otherwise squander inherited wealth. Parents can reduce the chances of this happening by teaching their children the value of money as they grew up. Parents should also take some time to talk about the type of assets that they plan to leave to their children.

Reducing distracted driving among truckers

Distracted driving is all too common in Louisiana and the rest of the U.S., with cellphone use alone causing 26 percent of all crashes in the country. Every day, according to data analytics firm Zendrive, an estimated 69 million Americans use their phone at least once behind the wheel. GPS and in-car entertainment systems are just some other forms of technology that drivers have become addicted to.

Many commercial truck fleets have realized the importance of reducing distracted driving. Distracted driving can lead to more severe crashes and, if not that, still cause delays when drivers are pulled over by the police and forced to undergo roadside inspections. Many companies are providing technology that could help turn the situation around.

Common myths about starting a business

Starting their own business is a dream for many Americans. Maybe you have a big idea you are dying to get on the market, or you want to make your side-hustle a full-time job. Regardless of the business idea, starting your own business can also seem like a big risk.

Before you talk yourself out of your dream, know that many aspiring entrepreneurs are also afraid of taking the first step. Here is a list of some common myths about starting a business.

Estate planning errors that should be avoided

There are a number of people in Louisiana who could be making estate planning errors. Of course, one of the most common errors is neglecting to have an estate plan at all. If property owners die without a will or a trust, the state determines who gets what assets. Ultimately, this may not be in line with the person's wishes.

Another important element of an estate plan is preparing for incapacity. Documents such as powers of attorney may be used to appoint people to manage medical and financial decisions when one is unable to do so because of incapacity. However, it may best if an estate holder avoids using do-it-yourself forms for these documents. It can be easy to make an error that invalidates the document.

Succession planning aids business owners nearing retirement

At some point, business owners in Louisiana will need to think about retirement. Stepping away from a business could involve selling it or passing the reins to a family member or other successor. Both situations require careful planning to consider issues such as retirement income and the needs and abilities of heirs.

As a first step, an owner should evaluate the willingness and availability of a potential successor. If there is an heir capable of running the company, then the owner could prepare a transitional agreement. This contract will phase in the new primary owner and establish the terms for how the business will provide retirement income to the former operator. In the absence of a successor, an owner would consider looking for a buyer. The proceeds would then fund a retirement.

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