Louisiana Public Records Law

Louisiana public records law is a powerful tool that shines a light on the public’s business and information. This 13 minute overview will introduce you to the basics from the perspective of records custodians, record requesters and litigants.

There are three potential client groups that can utilize public records; Custodians, Requestors, and Litigants.

1) Overview

a) Definitions

i) Public record
ii) Custodian
iii) Exclusions & exceptions

b) Viewing

i) May request identification, age and sign register
ii) Produce records immediately if available
iii) No charge

c) Copying

i) Written request
ii) Reasonable charges
iii) Written response if not immediately available

(1) Three days by statute
(2) Five days to avoid enforcement penalties

d) Enforcement

i) Attorney fees and costs are mandatory after five days
ii) $100 per day penalties and damages if delay is unreasonable, arbitrary or capricious
iii) Custodian personally liable for fees, costs, penalties & damages

e) Judicial action

i) Ordinary or summary proceeding
ii) Declaratory action, mandamus, injunction & contempt
iii) Priority and preference thru appeal

f) Jurisprudence

i) Copeland v Copeland – sealed court records
ii) Shane v The Parish of Jefferson- personal right to privacy
iii) The Independent v Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope – Contempt & persons

2) Tips

a) Read the entire statute – LRS 44:1 et seq
b) Be specific – avoid “any and all”
c) Be practical – what do you really need
d) Be courteous – do not play “gotcha”
e) Keep photocopies of all communications and requests

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Filed under Government, Uncategorized

The New Louisiana Business Corporation Act Remedies and Valuation Standard

By Steven G. “Buzz” Durio, A. Anderson Hartiens, and Travis J. Broussard

The transformational new Louisiana Business Corporation Act (LBCA) creates previously unknown remedies for minority shareholders and a new business valuation standard for Louisiana. The full impact of its new remedies cannot be realized without understanding its change of the controlling business valuation standard.  By mandating the use of “fair value”, the LBCA legislatively completes the jurisprudentially initiated elimination of minority and marketability discounts announced by the Louisiana Supreme Court five years before in Cannon v. Bertrand.[1]

The New Act

The new Business Corporation Act was the result of Acts 2014, No. 328, eff. Jan. 1, 2015 and became La. R. S. 12: 1-101, et. seq.[2] Drafted by a Committee of the Louisiana Law Institute, as reported by LSU Law Professor Glenn Morris, it was based on the Model Business Corporation Act 1999 and subsequent revisions.[3] Significant changes to prior law include a new section governing shareholder derivative actions,[4] an extensive elaboration of appraisal rights, formerly referred to as dissenting shareholder rights,[5] and a completely new remedy – the shareholder’s right to withdraw.[6]

The New Remedies

Appraisal Rights

Appraisal rights are triggered by substantially the same transactions under the LBCA which previously triggered dissenting shareholder’s rights under the LBCL, but without the exception which previously disallowed them in cases where there was eighty percent approval of the triggering transaction.[7] A new obligation of notice, with specified disclosures and information is imposed upon the Corporation.[8] Appraisal rights now specifically include the right “to obtain payment of the fair value of that shareholder’s shares”.[9]

Withdrawal

The shareholder’s new remedy of withdrawal is contained in La.R.S.12:1-1435(A) which simply states:

If a corporation engages in oppression of a shareholder, the shareholder may withdraw from the corporation and require the corporation to buy all of the shareholder’s shares at their fair value.

The predicate for this new remedy is “oppression”, which is defined by La. R.S. 1435B:

A corporation engages in oppression of a shareholder if the corporation’s distribution, compensation, governance, and other practices, considered as a whole over an appropriate period of time, are plainly incompatible with a genuine effort on the part of the corporation to deal fairly and in good faith with the shareholder. Conduct that is consistent with the good faith performance of an agreement among all shareholders is presumed not to be oppressive.[10]

This new remedy incorporates a standard for business valuation which is also essentially unknown to Louisiana statutory law: “fair value”.[11]

The New Standard

This new standard of “fair value” enters the law of Louisiana traditionally populated by cognate but variant terms such as “fair cash value”,[12] “value” to “pay in money”,[13] and “fair market value”,[14] which have applied statutorily to the evaluation of dissenting shareholder rights,[15] the interest of a withdrawing partner,[16] and a membership interest in an LLC,[17] respectively.  The Business Corporation Act repealed the reference to “cash value” in connection with dissenting shareholder rights under the old Business Corporation Law and replaced it in the new chapter on appraisal rights under the Business Corporation Act.

Under the new LBCA, fair value is defined in connection with appraisal rights  by La. R. S. 12:1-1301 (4):

 (4) “Fair value” means the value of the corporation’s shares determined immediately before the effectuation of the corporate action to which the shareholder objects, using customary and current valuation concepts and techniques generally employed for similar businesses in the context of the transaction requiring appraisal, and without discounting for lack of marketability or minority status except, if appropriate, for amendments to the articles pursuant to R.S. 12:1-1302(A)(5).[18]

This same definition is incorporated in the new withdrawal remedy by La. R.S. 12:1-1435C:

The term “fair value” has the same meaning in this Section and in R.S. 12:1-1436 as it does in R.S. 12:1-1301(4) concerning appraisal rights, except that the value of a withdrawing shareholder’s shares under this Section and R.S. 12:1-1436 is to be determined as of the effective date of the notice of withdrawal under Subsection D of this Section.[19]

Prior to the new Business Corporation Act, the terms “cash” value and “value” had been subsumed by the term “fair market value”.[20]  It was generally acknowledged that “fair market value … is not the pro rata share … of the fair market value … of the entire business …. [and] can be impacted by such factors as …. minority discounts”. Pratt, Shannon P., The Lawyer’s Business Valuation Handbook, p. 4.[21] Thus the reference to “fair market value” was generally understood to require such discounts for minority status or lack of control and lack of a market or marketability.[22]

However, the Louisiana Supreme Court in Cannon v. Bertrand, 2 So.3d 393 (La. 2009) largely signaled the death knell for the application of minority or marketability discounts. See 57 La. Bar. J. 24, Discounts in Business Valuations After Cannon v. Bertrand.[23] Since then, Louisiana’s Business Corporation Law has been completely repealed.[24] The new Louisiana Business Corporation Act which replaced it, La. R.S. 12:1-101, et seq., effective January 1, 2015, eliminates the use of minority discounts by referencing “fair value” instead of “fair market value”.  See La. R.S. 12:1-1301(4), 1302, 1435, passim. Thus, in terms of valuation standards, the new Business corporation act is both the logical extension and the inevitable conclusion of the analysis the Supreme Court accepted in Cannon v. Bertrand.[25]

Conclusion

The cumulative effect of these new remedies and the new valuation standard in the Business Corporation Act cannot be underestimated. The direct remedy of withdrawal from a corporation was unavailable,[26] dissolution was practically impossible,[27] and even a successful minority shareholder’s claim for the indirect remedies of receivership,[28] or dissenting shareholder’s rights,[29] or a derivative action for the devaluation of interest,[30] or an action for damages,[31] were all destined to be pyrrhic victories, because minority or marketability discounts of up to 70% were not uncommon.[32]  For experienced business practitioners who have long represented minority shareholders and have so often experienced justice frustrated, the new Business Corporation Act remedies and valuation standard generate a feeling comparable to Moses’ bittersweet view of the promised land.[33]


Footnotes:

[1] 2 So.3d 393 (La. 2009). See, Discounts in Business Valuations after Cannon v. Bertrand,  57 La. Bar. J. 24. Mr. Durio served as counsel and Mr. Hartiens was the testifying valuation expert for Mr. Cannon in Cannon v. Bertrand.
[2]  Act 328 also repealed former Chapter 1, the “Business Corporation Law”, consisting of R.S. 12:1 to 12:178. See 2014 revision comment to La.R.S. 12:1-101.
[3] Id.
[4] See Section 1-740, et seq. The Act also included a provision which exempts shareholder derivative proceedings as defined in the LBCA from the application of Chapter 5 regarding “Class and Derivative Actions “ of  the Code of Civil Procedure. See La. Code Civ. Pro. Article 611B.
[5] See Section 1-1301, et seq.
[6] See Section 1-1401, et seq.
[7] La. R.S. 12:131(A).
[8] See La. R.S 12:1-1321.
[9] La. R.S. 12:1-3012(A).
[10] Section 1435 goes on to state:

The following factors are relevant in assessing the fairness and good faith of the corporation’s practices:

(1) The conduct of the shareholder alleging oppression.
(2) The treatment that a reasonable shareholder would consider fair under the circumstances, considering the reasonable expectations of all shareholders in the corporation.

A thorough discussion of these qualifications is beyond the scope of this article and should probably await judicial interpretation
[11]   Fair value for business valuations should not be confused with the term fair value measurements in financial reporting. The definition of fair value for financial reporting is: (1) the exit price to sell an asset or transfer a liability (conceptually different from a transaction price); (2) a market-based measurement; and (3) a price that should be adjusted for transaction cost.  Fair value considers the concepts relating to assets and liabilities in Financial Accounting Standards Board Concepts Statement No. 6, Elements of Financial Statements, in the context of market participants.  A fair value measurement reflects current market participant assumptions about the future inflows associated with an asset (future economic benefits) and the future outflows associated with a liability (future sacrifices of economic benefits).
[12] La. R.S. 12:131(C).
[13] La. Civ. Code Arts. 2823-24.
[14] La. 12:1325(C).  See also the statute for community property partitions, La. R.S. 9:2801.
[15] See note 9, supra.
[16] See note 10, supra.
[17] See note 11, supra.  See also the statute regulating community property partitions, La. R.S. 9:2801.
[18] This provision stems verbatim from the Revised Model Business Corporation Act of 1999 as reflected in the 2002 edition. See, Pratt, Shannon P., The Lawyer’s Business Valuation Handbook, p.293-94.
[19] Section 1-1435 provides that the corporation may accept the notice of withdrawal or dispute the allegation of oppression in an ordinary proceeding.  Section 1-1436 applies after a notice of withdrawal and acceptance or a determination of oppression, and provides for a judicial determination of “fair value” by summary proceeding if the parties fail to determine it by negotiation within sixty days.
[20] See Shopf v. Marina del Ray Partnership, 549 So.2d 833 (La. 1989) as discussed in and distinguished by Cannon v. Bertrand, 08-1073 (La. 1/21/09), 2 So.3d 393.  See also, 57 La. Bar. J. 24, Discounts in Business Valuations after Cannon v. Bertrand.
[21] “The largest single issue in most shareholder and partner valuation disputes is whether discounts and/or premiums are applicable, and if so, what is the magnitude of such discounts and/or premiums? The most common issues involve minority discount or control premiums and discounts for lack of marketability”.  Pratt at 298.
[22] See Shopf, 549 So.2d 833 at 849, as quoted in Cannon, 2 So.3d 393 at 395-96: “The most significant adjustment must be made in recognition of the fact that [Shopf’s] share is a minority interest in a closely held business. The determination of the value of a fractional share in a business entity involves more than fixing the value of the business and multiplying by the fraction being evaluated, especially when the share is a minority interest. A minority interest may be uniquely valuable to the owner, but may have considerably less value to an independent third party, because the interest is relatively illiquid and difficult to market …. There is no testimony in this record discussing the applicability of a minority interest discount to plaintiff’s share, but some reduction is clearly warranted. Under the circumstances of this case we apply a discount of one-third …. as the fair market value.”
[23] Cannon noted: “Nationally, the trend in law is away from applying such discounts. See, e.g., 7 La. Civ. L. Treatise, Business Organizations § 4.11 (2008).  Cannon, 2 So.2d 393 at 396, note 4.
[24] Acts 2014, No. 328, Section 5, eff. Jan. 1, 2015.  See also note 2, supra.
[25] “Minority discounts and other discounts, such as for lack of marketability, may have a place in our law; however, such discounts must be used sparingly and only when the facts support their use. …. Furthermore, discounting the market value …. would be inequitable. The withdrawing partner should not be penalized for doing something the law allows him to do, and the remaining partners should not thereby realize a windfall profit at his expense.” Cannon, 2 So.3d 393 at 396.
[26] The withdrawal remedy was previously available only in connection with partnerships and LLC’s. See notes 13 and 14, supra.
[27] See, e.g., Gruenberg v. Goldmine Plantation,360 So.2d 884 (La. App 4 Cir. 3/14/78.
[28] Previously provided under La. R.S. 12:145.
[29] Previously provided under La. R.S. 12:131.
[30] Previously provided under La. Code Civ. Pro Art 611 et seq., but See La. R.S. 12:1-740 et. seq..
[31] See, e.g., Combs v. Howard, 481 So.2d 179, 183 (La. App. 3 Cir. 1985).
[32] See Combs v. Howard, 481 So.2d 179, 183 (La. App. 3 Cir. 1985) Justice Knoll’s critical observations regarding the use of minority or marketability discounts in her concurring opinion in Combs were the beginning of the process in Louisiana which culminated in Cannon and their elimination from the definition of fair value under the LBCA. Much credit must also go to Professors Wendell Holmes and Glenn Morris of the LSU law school whose writings in the Louisiana Civil Law Treatise, Business Organizations, crystalized the arguments against the application of discounts.
[33] See Deuteronomy, 34,1-4. Unlike Moses, however, a few us are still hoping we will get to live here under the LBCA a while.

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Law Firm “Business Associate” Compliance with HIPAA and HITECH

By Jonathan R. Villien

The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, effective September 23, 2013, modified HIPAA to impose direct liability on business associates (BA) of entities subject to HIPAA (covered entities) for certain violations associated with HIPAA’s Security and Privacy Rules. 42 U.S.C. §§ 17931, 17394; 45 C.F.R. §§ 164.302, 164.502. Law firms providing legal services to covered entities, such as hospitals or physicians, requiring the use of protected health information (PHI), referred to as “law firm BAs,” are now considered business associates of those covered entities. Thus, if you practice in the area of healthcare professional liability defense or compliance and require the use of PHI to perform services, you are likely considered a “BA” under HIPAA and HITECH and must directly comply with those regulations.

But HITECH goes further than that; the Act also requires the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) to conduct periodic audits of covered entities and business associates for compliance. 42 U.S.C. § 17940. Thus, healthcare attorneys, as BAs, will also be potential audit targets in addition to covered entities. In the coming year (from October 2014 to June 2015), OCR intends to conduct an audit of 350 covered entities. Those covered entities will be required to disclose the identity of their BAs; from there, OCR will randomly select 50 of the disclosed BAs for auditing. See Marianne McGee, HIPAA Audits: Round 2 Details Revealed, Heathcare Info Security (April 11, 2014), http://www.healthcareinfosecurity.com/hipaa-audits-round-2-details-revealed-a-6747/op-1.

If the law firm BA is not currently HIPAA/HITECH compliant, the following identifies and briefly expounds upon the primary steps (though not necessarily an exhaustive list) that a law firm BA should take to comply with HIPAA and HITECH ahead of the proposed 2015 BA audits.

Conduct a Risk and Gap Analysis
One of the first steps in assuring that the law firm BA is HIPAA/HITECH compliant is by conducting an initial risk analysis to identify HIPAA violations or other obvious problem areas as well as the gaps in policies and procedures that should theoretically be in place. 45 C.F.R. § 164.308. The firm must take reasonable steps to minimize incidental disclosures of protected patient health information (PHI). When dealing with medical records, it is all about using “reasonable safeguards” to protect PHI, but these safeguards may vary depending on whether the health information is electronic or not. 45 C.F.R. § 164.502. In any event, an initial assessment of whether such safeguards are in place is essential to evaluating what the law firm BA needs to do going forward.

Develop a Security Risk Management Program
Law firm BAs are expressly subject to HIPAA’s Security Rule, so development and implementation of a security compliance plan is another essential step towards compliance. If a law firm BA maintains electronic PHI, or “ePHI,” then “administrative, technical, and physical safeguards” are required to ensure that the ePHI is securely maintained. 45 C.F.R. §§ 164.308-212. So the question becomes: What is the law firm BA doing to reasonably protect PHI and ePHI from unauthorized uses or disclosures, and what do they need to do in the future?

Appointment of a Security Official
The HIPAA Security Rule requires the law firm BA to appoint a “security official” to ensure security compliance who will be responsible for the development and implementation of the aforementioned policies and procedures, said person likely being the Office of Civil Rights’ (OCR) point of contact in the event of an HIPAA audit. 45 C.F.R. § 164.308.

While HIPAA/HITECH compliance will need a person in charge, it will ultimately require involvement of all lawyers and personnel who are familiar with the nature of the firm’s medical record system, business associate relationships, IT professionals who are versed in the firm’s document management system, and anyone else who handles PHI or ePHI as a regular part of their job.

As part of the security compliance program, law firm BAs will need to formulate policies setting forth those “administrative, technical, and physical safeguards” necessary to protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of ePHI insofar as they are currently not in place, and put those policies into practice. See 45 C.F.R. §§ 164.308-312. Those safeguards include the following:

Administrative Safeguards – security and risk management plans; protections from malicious software; password management; contingency plans. 45 C.F.R. § 164.308.

Physical Safeguards – facility access controls; maintenance records; workstation security; device and media controls; data backup and storage. 45 C.F.R. § 164.310.

Technical Safeguards – access controls; audit controls; data encryption. 45 C.F.R. § 164.312.

Development of Policies and Procedures
Regardless of whether the PHI is maintained in hard copy or electronically, law firm BAs must also comply with HIPAA’s Privacy Rule, which requires that the law firm BA make reasonable efforts to limit use, disclosure, and requests of PHI to the “minimum necessary” to accomplish an intended purpose. To do so, the law firm BA should formulate information security policies that delineate the necessary access limitations on documents – whether hard copy or electronic – containing PHI. Because one can easily envision a breach of the Privacy Rule – for example, a non-BA attorney or staff member from the firm inadvertently accessing and viewing a medical bill or record on the firm’s electronic filing system – the law firm BAs should also develop a policy incorporating the breach determination risk assessment. 45 C.F.R. §§ 164.316, 164.502, 164.530.

In developing policies and procedures, the law firm BA should reexamine the substantive language contained in their business associate agreements for compliance with HIPAA. 45 C.F.R. §§ 164.504, 164.314. The law firm BA should also address the standard HIPAA Privacy Rule concerns, such as (but not limited to) patient access to PHI, accounting of disclosures of PHI, permissible uses/disclosures of PHI, document return/destruction, storage of PHI, and contracts for independent contractor relationships. See 45 C.F.R. § 164.500.

Regarding BA independent contractor contracts, the law firm BA will need to ensure that all independent contractors are also HIPAA/HITECH compliant, since the law firm BA may have potential vicarious liability for HIPAA civil penalties under the federal common law of agency for the acts of their agents with the scope of the agency. See 45 C.F.R. § 160.402; see also 45 C.F.R. § 164.504.

Development of a Breach Notification Policy
The law firm BA’s HIPAA/HITECH obligations will require them to notify the covered entity for whom they are a business associate if unsecured PHI is acquired, accessed, used, or disclosed in violation of HIPAA. 45 C.F.R. § 164.410. The law firm BA should institute a breach notification policy that outlines how breaches are handled. 45 C.F.R. § 164.414.

Staff Training Requirements
Additionally, the law firm BA will need to demonstrate that their staff with access to ePHI has been appropriately trained. Thus, the law firm BA should develop or adopt a staff training policy and manual that will set forth the required training for employees relative to their function and role. 45 C.F.R. § 164.308.

Maintain Documentation
Of course, the law firm BAs will need to properly maintain documentation regarding all medical record policies and procedures, training programs, breach notification policy, etc. HIPAA requires such documentation to be maintained for at least six years. 45 C.F.R. § 164.316.

The above represents a general framework that the law firm BA should construct so that they can assure HIPAA compliance in the future and avoid a finding of noncompliance during the OCR BA audits. Business associates, including most attorneys representing healthcare professionals, will no longer receive special treatment, but rather are expected to comply to the same extent as covered entities.

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Obtaining A Patent

By: Chase A. Manuel

A patent is a governmental grant that gives an inventor a limited monopoly to practice their invention including the exclusive right to make, use, and sell the invention for a set term of years. Many aspiring inventors are discouraged from seeking a patent on their inventions when first faced with the United State Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). To the uninitiated the steps involved in obtaining patent protections can be a daunting and a complex challenge. The patent process is time consuming, much of the time lasting a few years before a patent is issued. The communications from the USPTO are highly technical and require prompt responses and to each and every issue raised. Failure to properly address a rejection many times results in the premature final rejection of the application, requiring the applicant to reapply all over again. The cost of taking an invention from application to patent certificate can be a costly investment.

The United States patent laws provide several hurdles in obtaining patent protections. First, patents may be granted only on a new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter or on new and useful improvements thereof. Essentially this means that your invention must be something that doesn’t exist right now. For example, you would have difficulty obtaining a patent for a chair with a seat and four wooden legs seeing as there are chairs and stools which have those qualities.

Secondly, certain conditions for patentability and novelty are imposed by the patent laws. The statutes provide that a person is entitled to a patent unless: (a) the claimed invention was patented, described in a printed publication, or in public use, on sale, or otherwise available to the public before the effective filing date of the claimed invention or (b) the claimed invention was described in an issued patent or in a published application for patent, in which the patent or application, as the case may be, names another inventor and was effectively filed before the effective filing date of the claimed invention.

This can be a sticky condition for aspiring inventors. Many a time a patent was applied for or obtained but the inventor was unable to or unlucky in producing or marketing their product. A quick search of local stores or internet vendors may not reveal what a previous inventor may have patented. This is why with new patent clients we typically suggest that a patent search be performed. As well, the patent office may use the actions of an inventor to reject a patent application. For instance, a disclosure or sale made one year or more before the filing date of a claimed invention can be used to prevent a patent being issued.

Thirdly, in addition to the novelty requirement for a patent, the invention cannot be obvious in view of the prior patents, publications, and knowledge of those skilled in the subject of the invention (also known as “Prior Art”). An invention will be considered obvious if the differences between it and the prior art and the available knowledge in the field are such that the invention as a whole would have been obvious at the time it was made to a person having ordinary skill in the art to which the invention pertains.

The issues of novelty and obviousness are reviewed by the patent office after a patent application is filed. The patent office, not the inventor, must show that the invention is not novel or that it is obvious based upon certain objective standards. The inventor cannot mislead the patent office and does have a duty to disclose to the patent office any invention or evidence of which he has knowledge that may bear on the patentability of his invention. If an inventor fails to disclose such invention or evidence, the patent could be declared invalid and unenforceable if there is a subsequent challenge on those issues.

After a patent application is filed, the process known as the patent prosecution begins. Upon filing, the application will be given a Serial Number and assigned to a patent examiner in the Patent Office for review. It is the examiner’s job to review the application and determine if the invention it describes is indeed new and non-obvious and otherwise meets the legal requirements necessary for a patent to be granted. When the review is completed, the patent examiner will prepare and file a document called an Office Action that will set forth the examiner’s conclusions as to whether or not the invention as claimed is sufficiently novel to warrant the granting of a patent. It may be 18 to 24 months or longer before the patent examiner submits his initial Office Action.

In the Office Action, more often than not, the patent examiner will object to or reject all or some of the claims presented with patent application. With such an occurrence, there is no need for alarm. If the claims are objected to or rejected, the examiner is required to set forth written reasons for the objection or rejection in the Office Action. Objections and rejections to the claims are to be expected and welcomed as we will then have an opportunity to respond to the examiner and, if necessary, amend the application and claims in order to persuade the examiner to withdraw his rejection and allow the application to issue as a patent. Arguments for patentability of your application will strengthen and reinforce the validity of an issued patent. It may take multiple Office Actions before the Examiner and the applicant agree on the form and content of an application. If the applicant and the examiner fail to agree, the applicant may appeal the Examiner’s decisions to the Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks and, if necessary, to the federal courts.

The majority of attorney’s fees and costs will be incurred during the prosecution stage of the patent application. The fees and cost incurred during the prosecution stage will vary depending upon the time required to make a considered response to the Examiner’s comments as presented in the Office Actions.

In the event that a patent on the invention is granted, the term of a patent will extend from the date the patent issues and until 20 years from the filing date of the application. After the patent is issued, periodic maintenance fees must also be paid to keep the patent in force for its full term. An Applicant’s failure to pay any of these fees will result in the abandonment of the patent and loss of the inventor’s ability to enforce the issued patent.

The patent process may be a daunting prospect and any patent applications filed will be subject to rigorous scrutiny as to its compliance with the requirements of statutory subject matter, novelty, and non-obviousness. A patent on the application may not issue at all, or the language of the application may be amended and the claims narrowed.

If you have an idea which you feel is patentable, DMSA’s intellectual property attorneys may be able to provide the needed guidance in obtaining your patent. Whatever the future might bring for the claimed invention, the patent process serves as an invaluable tool for protecting the ingenuity of an inventor’s creativity.

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Do I Have to Pay Estate Taxes?

By: Daniel J. Phillips
It is a question that many of us have wondered about: will I have to pay estate taxes? The question can arise after the death of a friend or family member, or in the course of your own estate planning.

Fortunately for most estates in Louisiana, the answer may be no. The State of Louisiana has eliminated estate taxes, so estates in Louisiana are no longer required to pay state estate taxes. On the other hand, the federal government still requires the payment of estate taxes, but only for “Taxable Estates” whose gross value exceeds the amount of the IRS’ exemption. The amount of this exemption changes annually: for estates of persons who died in 2014, the exemption amount was $5.34 million; for 2015, the exemption amount has been increased to $5.43 million.

According to the IRS, the “Taxable Estate” is the amount of a “Gross Estate,” less any applicable deductions. The gross estate includes all property in which the decedent, or person who passed away, has an interest, including the values of certain items such as annuities, donations which the decedent made prior to his death, and certain life insurance proceeds even if these proceeds are not payable to the estate. Any applicable deductions are then subtracted from the amount of the gross estate, such as the amount of debts such as mortgages, estate administration expenses, and property that passes to qualified charities. If the value of the Taxable Estate is less than the exemption amount for the year in which the decedent died, the estate may not be required to pay federal estate taxes.

Please note that this is only a brief synopsis of whether an estate tax must be paid, and is intended for informational purposes, not as legal advice. If you have had a loved one recently pass away, or you are concerned about your estate’s future exposure to estate taxes upon your death, our attorneys may be able to help you navigate the succession process or plan your estate.

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