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Baton Rouge Legal Blog

Dealing with timeshares in estate planning

Timeshares allow Louisiana residents to use their favorite vacation properties for designated weeks each year and can reduce their travel expenses considerably, but selling them can be difficult even in a booming real estate market. Timeshare purchases once included deeds like other real estate transactions, but they are generally sold today on what is known as a right to use basis. This is the same kind of legal arrangement used by gyms and spas to offer memberships. When timeshare owners pass away, their heirs are not usually required to continue making annual maintenance fees.

Some timeshare companies seek to make heirs legally responsible for ongoing fees and maintenance charges by encouraging their customers to add their children and other relatives to the paperwork. Salespeople may tell prospective owners that doing this will make it easier for their loved ones to use the property should they wish to. This should be avoided as it could make heirs responsible for needed repairs as well as ongoing monthly expenses. Many elderly timeshare owners simply return their units when they can no longer use them as resorts rarely take these cases to court.

Financing helps businesses afford the tools of their trades

Entrepreneurs and business owners in Louisiana know financing is a part of almost every business. Small businesses often take out loans to cover raw materials or inventory costs, and many companies regularly use revolving lines of credit to pay employees or take care of other expenses. Financing the purchase of specialized equipment is also common. Equipment financing allows small businesses to make major purchases of necessary tools. It is used to pay for expensive farm machinery, office furniture, company vehicles, computers, information technology infrastructure and any other equipment a business might need.

A study by Fundera, a small business lender, found that 42 percent of small business owners use financing for major equipment purchases. Upgrading equipment is also a significant ongoing expense for many small businesses.

How estate planning benefits small business owners

Louisiana fans of Aretha Franklin or Prince won't want to follow in their footsteps when it comes to estate planning. Neither had a will despite being worth $80 million and $300 million respectively when they died. Dying without a will means that the government plays a significant role in determining how assets are distributed.

In addition to a will, small business owners should consider creating a succession plan. The plan will decide who gets the company after the current owner dies and how the transfer will take place. A health care directive and financial power of attorney documents should also be included in an estate plan. These documents give a person greater control over the treatment that he or she receives or how money is spent while incapacitated. This is true whether a person is incapacitated on a temporary or a permanent basis.

Estate planning tasks for surviving spouses

When a Louisiana spouse dies, the surviving spouse may be preoccupied with settling the decedent's estate. However, there are several important steps they should take to get their own estates in order.

One reason for this is that in many estate planning documents, spouses may have named one another. For example, a power of attorney allows one person to take over financial affairs if the other person is incapacitated. If this is not updated and the surviving spouse becomes incapacitated, the family may have to go through a long and expensive process to appoint someone to manage finances. The surviving spouse may also want to update the health care proxy and HIPAA release forms. The former appoints someone to make medical decisions on the person's behalf if the person is unable to do so while the latter allows someone to access the person's medical information.

Car accident injuries: what is most common?

When you get into a car accident, injury is a common result. Having a car slam into yours can jostle the body immensely, sometimes crushing the body and breaking bones. Accidents that end in injury can be scary and dangerous, which is why it is important to know the possibilities for injury.

If you are injured in a crash, your priority should be your own safety. Motor-vehicle crash injuries require medical attention. These are the most common types of injuries individuals sustain from automobile crashes.

Driver's education programs are evolving

Younger drivers in Louisiana and across America may benefit from visits to intensive care units and morgues. According to a Baylor University study, those who toured these locations were generally more aware of the consequences of risky behavior. The study looked at 21 teen drivers who participated in the Reality Education for Drivers (RED) program. While the RED program is offered in Texas, there are many others like it in the United States.

The study asked participants whether they had taken actions such as texting while driving or drove on a freeway between midnight and 6 a.m. They were also asked to identify dangerous behaviors while driving. Most said that drunk driving, speeding and failure to wear a seat belt were dangerous. At the end of the program, the participants were found to be more aware of the dangers of speeding and peer pressure as it related to drinking.

Avoiding errors that can discourage start-up funding

When an entrepreneur thinks about creating a new business in Louisiana, they may be concerned about how to best attract the kind of financing that can help their start-up grow and thrive. There are a number of reasons why new start-ups can have difficulty getting the funding they seek from venture capitalists. In some cases, the process of fundraising itself can hinder the likelihood of success. Someone entering a new business can tailor the process in order to enhance their ability to attract vital funding and support.

In many cases, venture capitalists will want to look at the capitalization table, a document that indicates which people and companies have an ownership stake in the company. Sometimes, the document itself can have inherent problems. For example, it may be outdated, may not show the results of other funding rounds or may have broken models for equity stakes. In other cases, the problems can be more fundamental. For example, early investors may have received significant stakes for relatively small sums. Other concerns can be raised if the founders have made verbal promises of equity stakes that are not reflected in the document.

How others can learn from celebrity estate planning errors

People in Louisiana may want to avoid the errors of celebrities such as Aretha Franklin and Prince who died without estate plans. It's important to note that estate planning is not just for people who have wealth and fame. Creating an estate plan ensures that a person's wishes are carried out.

Without an estate plan, the distribution of assets could be delayed and family conflicts could erupt. Despite this, many or most people do not have one. One survey found that only about 40 percent of adults have a will or trust. Almost two-thirds of Gen Xers and over 40 percent of baby boomers do not have a will. Many simply say they have not gotten around to creating one.

Roundabouts save lives, reduce costs

Louisiana drivers may soon start to notice more roundabouts popping up around the state. That's because traffic safety experts say that one-way, circular intersections can save lives and reduce costs, particularly in rural areas.

For example, North Carolina planners are installing roundabouts in many rural communities in an effort to decrease traffic fatalities. Officials recently constructed a roundabout at one particularly dangerous intersection in Robeson County after drivers kept running the stop sign and causing serious crashes. In 2011, one collision at the intersection took the life of a 21-year-old pregnant woman. The new roundabout cost around $1.2 million to install, but engineers with the North Carolina Department of Transportation estimated it will save the state $2.5 million each year in reduced injury costs.

Planning for the hours or days following death or incapacity

Louisiana residents may put a comprehensive estate plan into place for a number of reasons. Wills ensure that assets will be distributed in a manner that testators approve of and trusts may be used to reduce tax exposure and avoid the public scrutiny of the probate process. However, peace of mind may be an estate plan's greatest benefit. Estate planning documents provide clear instructions for how assets should be distributed and children cared for should an individual die or become incapacitated, but they may not be of much use in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy.

Computers have made the legal system highly efficient in recent years, but it may still take days or even weeks for courts to rule on important issues such as the guardianship of children. This inevitable delay could be emotionally damaging to children who are already struggling to cope with the loss of their loved ones, and it may undermine the peace of mind that prudent estate planning documents are designed to provide.

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