Smithville Legal Blog

Pitfalls to avoid in creating a trust

A trust can be a powerful tool as part of a Texas resident's estate plan. Assets such as annuities or life insurance policies can be placed in a trust so they can increase in value while tax deferred or tax free. A person can also place conditions on distributions such as having them go to a beneficiary over a period of time or after reaching certain milestones. The grantor may have a goal for the trust, such as providing for the education of grandchildren, that can be written into the document.

However, after all of this preparation, many grantors then go on to make one mistake, and that is appointing a family member or friend as trustee. This can seem like a logical choice since this is a person who knows the family and will understand the grantor's wishes. However, it is also likely this person will lack the time as well as the financial and legal expertise to administer the trust.

Distracted driving across the country

When drivers in Texas get behind the wheel, there is an approximately 39 percent chance that they will be using a handheld mobile phone while driving. This is on the higher end of the results produced by a nationwide study conducted by Everdrive, a mobile app. The application tracks drivers' safety practices, with their consent, and the study obtained data from 300,000 American drivers who make use of the app.

While around 40 percent of the trips taken by Texas drivers involve phone use, other states saw even higher numbers. For example, in Mississippi, 47 percent of all trips involved use of a mobile phone while behind the wheel, followed closely by Louisiana and Alabama. The South in general had the highest rates of cellphone usage with Georgia, South Carolina and Florida rounding out the top states with 42 percent cellphone usage behind the wheel. Making use of a handheld mobile for calls, texts or internet access behind the wheel is a concern because it is a major cause of distracted driving. Any kind of driver behavior that diverts eyes and attention from the road can easily lead to devastating auto accidents.

What to ignore about small business financing

Texas entrepreneurs know that good businesses are built on decisions based on facts. However, when it comes to getting financing for a small business, owners may rely more on their intuition as opposed to what they know to be true. For instance, some believe that a new company cannot get financing. The truth is that microloans, crowdfunding campaigns and small business credit cards can be effective ways for any organization to raise funds.

Another myth that some believe is that taking on debt is not good for a small business. While too much debt can be a burden, there is nothing wrong with using other people's money in an effort to grow the company. The goal is to manage the level of debt and put rules in place to govern how the money is spent.

Survey reports that more drivers are texting while driving

According to a recent study, the number of drivers who self-report regular cell phone use while behind the wheel has significantly increased since 2013. Interestingly enough, the surveyed drivers also acknowledged distracted driving as a significant road hazard. Since distracted drivers are far more likely to cause an accident, the issue of cell phone use is a crucial matter to all Texas motorists.

The survey, which was commissioned by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, identified attitudes and behavior related to distracted driving. The survey interviewed 2,613 drivers over the age of 16 who had operated a vehicle within the prior 30 days. The number of drivers who reported using a mobile device while behind the wheel increased 46 percent since the same survey was done in 2013. Nearly half of all respondents had spoken on the phone or read a text message while driving, and one-third of respondents admitted to typing a text message.

Negotiating a commercial lease

While every decision in starting a business is a big one, the commercial lease is a new challenge for most start-ups. Most people are familiar with the short, standardized residential lease forms for apartments, duplexes and homes. A commercial lease is much longer and there is no universal format.

Every building is unique and every business is different. The commercial lease will reflect this. The most important thing any business owner needs to know, is do not sign something you don't understand. It may become a vital issue that could siphon profits or cause intense stress later on.

49-year-old woman killed by self-driving vehicle

In a perfect world, self-driving cars would be flawless pieces of technology that do exactly what they are set out to do without getting into any problems. Self-driving cars would be whirring marvels of precision and efficiency. No two vehicles would ever come in contact with one another, and they would effortlessly glide on and off the freeway. It would be like a scene out of a science fiction movie.

Alas, that world isn't our world. Self-driving cars are still very much in their infancy, with companies all across the world competing to perfect the technology. In the meantime, we have various companies here in the U.S. testing out self-driving cars on the roads -- and one of them just made a grave mistake.

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