Estate Planning: Providing For Your Pet

Kyle Winter

In an article entitled “The Importance of an Estate Plan” drafted earlier this year, we discussed the benefits of future planning as it relates to persons of all income brackets. A general background was presented providing the readers an opportunity to understand the importance of an estate plan, and more specifically the advantages of a Trust, powers of attorney, and/or living wills to ensure that a person’s current desires would be followed through at a time when they could not make decisions for themselves, or upon their death. As a follow up to The Importance of an Estate Plan, this article will discuss a rarely used, but important subset of estate planning for clients who want to provide for their beloved pets in addition to their family members.

Unsurprisingly, most people consider their pets as an important part of their family. The purpose of an estate plan is to ensure that one’s property is cared for and distributed as the Grantor desires. Likewise, the purpose of creating enforceable documents regarding one’s pets is to ensure that they are properly cared for and placed in a loving home for the remainder of their lifetimes.

With this idea in mind, a Grantor can ensure their pets are provided for when they are unable to care for their pets themselves. Such provisions in an estate plan can be as simple or elaborate as one desires. A client may merely designate who will take custody of the family pets, or may choose to provide a comprehensive plan for who will care for the pets, including providing funds for their care, and donating any residual funds to various shelters in their pet’s name upon their passing. Certainly, a Grantor can leave their estate to whomever they decide, including their pets, and such provisions will be followed just as any other distribution or request contained in an individual’s Trust or estate plan.

Whether you already have an established trust that does not provide for your animals, or if you are planning on establishing a family trust and wish to include provisions for your animals, it is important that you discuss these and other estate planning issues with competent legal counsel. Be sure to that your wishes are known in advance whatever they may be. At Allison MacKenzie, Ltd., our attorneys are available to discuss these estate planning issues with you whether you already have an established trust that does not provide for your animals, or if you are planning on establishing a family trust and wish to include provisions for your animals.

Ryan Russell Re-Elected to the State Bar of Nevada’s Board of Governors

Ryan Russell

Allison MacKenzie shareholder Ryan Russell has been re-elected to serve as Carson City’s representative on the State Bar of Nevada’s Board of Governors.
 
Comprised of 15 members representing the four state districts defined in Supreme Court Rule 81, the Board of Governors carries out the State Bar’s administrative functions, sets policies and procedures, affects rule changes, takes legislative positions relative to the administration of justice, and oversees the Bar’s fiduciary responsibilities. Elections are held annually and governors are selected by the members of their districts to serve two-year terms.
 
A native of Carson City, Ryan has been an attorney at Allison MacKenzie since 2004. His primary areas of practice include Local Government and Entity Law. In addition to his work at Allison MacKenzie, Ryan is also extremely active in his service of the community. He currently serves as a Special Master for the Carson City Juvenile Court and Judge Pro Tem for the Carson City Justice and Municipal Court. Ryan also volunteers his time to the Boys and Girls Club of Western Nevada and is a member of the Carson City Rotary Club.
 
Ryan was recently recognized as one of the Top Attorneys in Northern Nevada by Nevada Business Magazine. Each year, the Legal Elite list highlights the top 4 percent of attorneys in the state as nominated and voted on by the legal community.
 
Allison MacKenzie is proud of Ryan’s re-election to the Board of Governors and of his ongoing dedication to civic service. Ryan’s accomplishments are part of the firm’s rich legacy of commitment to both its clients and its community.

2017 Legal Elite Includes Five Allison MacKenzie Attorneys

 

James Cavilia

James Cavilia

Allison MacKenzie is proud to announce that five attorneys have been recognized as Top Attorneys in Northern Nevada by Nevada Business Magazine. Each year, the publication releases its Legal Elite list highlighting the top 4 percent of attorneys in the state. After a rigorous nomination, verification, and voting process, Allison MacKenzie attorneys James Cavilia, Chris MacKenzie, Ryan Russell, Joel W. Locke, and Kevin Benson were named as part of the 2017 Legal Elite.

Ryan Russell

Chris MacKenzie

Legal Elite attorneys are nominated by votes from their peers in the legal community. Nearly 6,400 nominations were collected throughout the state of Nevada for Legal Elite this year. After closing the nomination process, every ballot was reviewed for eligibility and every voting attorney was verified with the State Bar. Each nominated attorney was then scored based on the number and type of votes received. Votes from within their own firm were given a score of one and votes from someone at an outside firm were given a weighted score of three. The top scorers are then verified again before officially being named to the final list. This thorough selection and vetting process ensures that Legal Elite includes and recognizes only the most exceptional attorneys in Nevada.

Kevin Benson

Joel W. Locke

James Cavilia, Chris MacKenzie, Ryan Russell, and Joel W. Locke are partners at Allison MacKenzie; Kevin Benson recently joined the firm as an associate attorney. All five attorneys are native Nevadans who have dedicated their careers to serving the communities of Northern Nevada.

James joined Allison MacKenzie in 1992; his practice areas include Real Property and Property Development Law. Chris has been with the law firm for 24 years and focuses his efforts on Business and Administrative Law. Ryan primarily practices Local Government and Entity Law and has been with the firm since 2004. Joel celebrates 10 years with Allison MacKenzie this year and focuses on Estate Planning and Family Law. Kevin came on board earlier this year, and his primary area of practice is Litigation and Appeals.

Congratulations to James, Chris, Ryan, Joel, and Kevin for their outstanding work and ongoing commitment to superior legal representation.

Tips to Successfully Start and Run a Family-owned Business

Allison MacKenzie Associate, Will Wagner Explores the Challenges of Running a Family-owned Businesses

Running a family-owned business can present both advantages and disadvantages while competing in the marketplace. Family dynamics in a business can add complexity to operations that competitors may not be burdened with. However, the personal and financial payoff can be immense for businesses that overcome common obstacles and pitfalls of working with family members.

Practical and legal suggestions for successfully operating a family-owned business include

Creating Structure:

While family-owned businesses often begin as a hobby or an idea among family members, as the business grows, it is imperative to create a legal structure to operate efficiently. Be sure to establish yours by creating an entity, registering with the Secretary of State’s Office, establishing separate bank accounts, and developing a business plan.

Establishing Clear Roles:

Make these roles as “official” as possible by creating titles and providing business cards. It would be prudent to require a family member to sign the same employment agreement that non-family employees sign, and subject family members to the same performance reviews as non-family employees.

Balancing Family vs Work Time:

Establish clear working hours and keep some family activities work free.

Creating a Succession Plan:

Plan ahead and have an exit strategy.

Read the complete article at: Northern Nevada Business Weekly

Former Senior Deputy Attorney General Joins Allison MacKenzie Law Firm

Kevin Benson, attorney with Allison MacKenzie Law Firm

Allison MacKenzie Law Firm is pleased to announce the hiring of Kevin Benson as an associate attorney effective March 1, 2017. A Carson City native and former State of Nevada Senior Deputy Attorney General, Kevin joins the law firm and will focus his areas of practice on civil litigation, appeals, administrative and regulatory matters, election law, and ballot measures.

Upon graduating from Carson High School, Kevin attended the University of Nevada, Reno, where he obtained a degree in Criminal Justice with a minor in Biology in 2001. In 2004, he obtained his Juris Doctor Degree from Rutgers School of Law in New Jersey. Committed to returning to the area and serving fellow Nevadans, Kevin accepted a position with the State of Nevada Attorney General’s office where he worked for over a decade. There, he rose to the position of Senior Deputy Attorney General.

Read the compete article at: CarsonNow.org

The Importance of an Estate Plan

Many people question the necessity of an estate plan and often conclude that the size of their estate does not warrant any future planning. However, estate planning is no longer only considered a vehicle for the wealthy and is used by persons of all income brackets to ensure their possessions go where they want upon their death. Without an estate plan, all of your property passes by operation of law, and you will have no say in where or to whom your possessions go. Fortunately, there are several choices in Nevada available for you to direct where your possessions go upon your passing, the most popular being a Last Will and Testament (“Will”) or Trust.

Upon executing a Will, you can nominate a Personal Representative and specifically detail who will receive your belongings upon your death. While this may accomplish your goal in ensuring that your property goes where you desire, your Personal Representative will still have to go through probate, a costly and time consuming Court process. In Nevada, there are four different levels of probate ranging from estates with a total value of less than $25,000 to estates exceeding $300,000. At each level, additional Court involvement is required, necessarily entailing higher costs and expense to your estate. Further, Nevada law entitles attorneys to compensation based on a percentage of the size of the probate estate. For example, Nevada law provides attorneys statutory compensation in the approximate amount of $9,000 for administering and probating a $300,000 estate. Alternatively, attorneys may charge the estate on an hourly basis for the time spent in the probate process. At Allison MacKenzie, Ltd., we charge the estate the lesser of the two amounts, allowing more of your estate to pass to your beneficiaries as desired.

Alternatively, the most popular form of future planning available to you is a Trust. While a Trust accomplishes the same goal as a Will, property in a Trust does not have to go through probate or be administered by a Court. Further, with recent changes in federal law, the vast majority of estates are no longer subject to additional taxes. This has allowed the attorneys at Allison MacKenzie, Ltd., to prepare Trusts and estate plans that easily accomplish your goals without convoluted legal jargon. In addition to the Trust itself, these estate plans include documents such as durable powers of attorney and living wills which set forth your personal desire regarding care during your life, in addition to the Trust which directs distribution of your property upon your death. At Allison MacKenzie, Ltd., all of these documents can be prepared for less than one-third of the expense your estate would be responsible for if it had to be probated under a Will.

Kyle Winter is a Nevada native and attorney at Allison MacKenzie Law Firm in Carson City. His areas of practice include Family Law, Estate Planning, Guardianships, and Probate Law.

Retirement: Final Rule on Fiduciaries

Allison MacKenzie Attorney, Jordan Walsh, Explains the Department of Labor’s Final Rule

The way we plan for retirement in the United States has changed drastically in recent years. In the past, employees could rely on their pension, which was typically managed by a financial expert, to support them through retirement. Today, for most of us, pensions are things of the past, and we, as individuals, are responsible for making the financial choices that will shape when and how we may retire.

While this system provides retirement savers with the flexibility to make financial choices that are uniquely tailored for their situations, this method of saving is fraught with pitfalls for retirement savers because most of us lack the expertise, time, and confidence, to invest our savings in a manner that will allow us to efficiently meet our retirement goals. Accordingly, we look to financial advisors to assist us in making smart financial decisions that will allow us to reach our retirement saving goals.

While most of us have good relationships with our financial advisors, statistics suggest there’s a segment of financial advisors who abuse the trust of their clients by putting their own financial gain above that of their clients. The Department of Labor (DOL) and the White House Council of Economic Advisors (CEA) estimate on average conflicts of interest between unscrupulous financial advisors and their clients cause retirement savers to earn one full percentage point less annually than would be expected based on the status of the economy on their returns.

Furthermore, the DOL estimates such advisors cause their clients to waste upwards of $17 billion of retirement savings every year on exorbitant fees and lost revenue associated with the purchase of ill-advised financial products resulting from a conflict of interest. These conflicts of interest can occur because financial advisors aren’t currently held to a fiduciary standard under the law, and for this reason, they owe their clients no duty to provide advice that aligns with the client’s financial goals. In fact, it’s common for firms and purveyors of financial products to provide financial incentives to advisors whose clients invest in certain financial products.

For the complete article, visit: Nevada Appeal.

 Jordan Walsh is an associate with Allison MacKenzie Law Firm with primary practice in the areas of Labor and Employment Law and Civil Litigation. Jordan was admitted to practice in Nevada and California in 2014.

Recent Nevada Case Law May Render Your Business’ Non-Compete Provisions Unenforceable

will-wagner

Allison MacKenzie Attorney, Will Wagner, Explores Non-Compete Provisions

In a July 2016 opinion, Golden Road Motor Inn, Inc. v. Islam (“Golden Road”), the Nevada Supreme Court pronounced a new legal rule regarding the enforceability of overbroad non-compete provisions in Nevada.  In light of Golden Road, it would be prudent for any entity conducting business in the State that relies on non-compete provisions to reevaluate the scope of such agreements to ensure they remain enforceable.

A non-compete provision is a contractual clause that prevents an employee from joining a competitor following the termination of employment.  Non-compete provisions are important to businesses that use sensitive information such as proprietary client lists or similar trade secrets.  These provisions also protect a business’s investment in training and retaining quality employees, while deterring competitors from luring valuable workers.

Non-Compete Provisions can be Overbroad in Timeframe or Geographical Scope Restrictions

Typically, the state’s laws in which the employee works will govern a non-compete provision. Non-compete laws vary widely from state to state as to enforceability and overbreadth. For instance, in California, under most circumstances a non-compete provision is unenforceable and cannot restrict an employee from joining a competitor. The primary exception to this being that when a business is sold, the selling entity and its employees can be restricted from competing. Many other states, including Nevada, allow non-compete provisions generally (both in the normal course of business and while a business is being sold) so long as the scope is reasonable and germane to the organization’s interests.

For the complete article, visit: Northern Nevada Business Weekly.

Will Wagner joined Allison MacKenzie Law Firm in 2016. He is a native Nevadan and University of Nevada, Reno graduate. Will pursued and obtained his law degree from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University where he graduated cum laude. Upon graduating from law school, he served as a law clerk to Justice James W. Hardesty on the Supreme Court of Nevada. He was admitted to practice law in Nevada in 2015, and California in 2016. Will’s areas of legal practice include Business, Real Estate, Employment, Appellate, and Administrative Law.

Fernley Native, Will Wagner, Joins Allison MacKenzie Law Firm

will-wagner

Will Wagner Joins Allison MacKenzie Law Firm

Fernley native Will Wagner accepted an associate position with Allison MacKenzie Law Firm in Carson City, effective Sept. 12 of this year. Wagner will focus his practice in business, real estate, employment, appellate practice, commercial litigation, governmental affairs and administrative law.

Upon graduating from Fernley High School, Wagner attended the University of Nevada, Reno where he began his studies in biochemistry before ultimately deciding to become an attorney and pursuing a degree in political science with a minor in business administration. In 2015, he obtained his Juris Doctor Degree from Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University where he graduated cum laude. He returned to the area and began his legal career as a law clerk for Justice James W. Hardesty at the Supreme Court of Nevada.

See the complete article: Nevada Appeal

Family Law Series: Modification of Child Custody and Visitation

Family Law Series: Modification of Child Custody and Visitation

Kyle Winter is a Nevada native and attorney at Allison MacKenzie Law Firm in Carson City. This home grown talent focuses his practice in the areas of Family Law, Estate Planning, Guardianships and Probate Law and recently completed his third article, and follow up article to Understanding Child Support Basics, in the Family Law Series: Modification of Child Custody and Visitation.

Please see the complete article below or visit: The Nevada Appeal.

More often than not, divorce and separation leaves parties in a difficult situation having to make decisions immediately, most frequently involving their minor children. Importantly, and until a Court order is entered to the contrary, each parent is considered to be a joint legal and joint physical custodian, meaning each is entitled to be with the children on an equal basis. As discussed in a previous article, the initial custody determination is important, for it sets the standard that serves as the basis for future determinations, including the time when a parent seeks to modify the current custody and visitation arrangement.

Generally speaking, once the custody and visitation of a minor child has been determined by a court of competent jurisdiction, that court retains and exercises continuing and exclusive jurisdiction to modify or vacate its prior order or decree until the child reaches age 18. However, and because a change in custody can be traumatic for a child and tends to undermine the stability and continuity the child has come to enjoy and need, Nevada courts don’t lightly entertain requests for change. Based on this understanding, and always considering the best interest of the child, the standard used by the court to determine whether a change in custody is warranted depends on the type of custodial arrangement that has been previously ordered or agreed upon by the parties.

For instance, if the Court has awarded joint physical custody and a parent later desires to become the primary physical custodian, the court must determine whether such a change is in the child’s best interest. In Nevada, the court considers numerous factors in determining a child’s best interest, including but not limited to, (a) the wishes of the child if the child is of sufficient age, (b) a nomination of a guardian for the child by a parent; (c) which parent is more likely to allow the child to have frequent associations and a continuing relationship with the other parent; (d) the level of conflict between the parents and the ability of the parents to cooperate to meet the needs of the child; (e) the mental and physical health of the parents and the child; (f) the nature of the relationship of the child with each parent; (g) the ability of the child to maintain a relationship with any sibling; and (h) any history of parental abuse or neglect or whether either parent or other party has engaged in an act of domestic violence or committed any act of abduction. If after careful consideration of these factors, the Court determines it would be in the child’s best interest to modify custody from a joint custodial arrangement to a primary physical custodial arrangement, it will do so.

On the other hand, if the court has awarded one parent primary physical custody and provided the other parent reasonable visitation, the standard the court will consider in determining whether modification is appropriate is drastically different. In addition to proving a modification would be in the child’s best interest using the factors explained above, the moving party must also prove there’s been a substantial change in circumstances affecting the welfare of the child. This additional “substantial change in circumstances” prong serves the important purpose of guaranteeing stability for the child and requires the party seeking the modification to prove both prongs. Moreover, the substantial change in circumstances must generally have occurred since the last custody determination, preventing a dissatisfied party from filing immediate, repetitive motions until the desired result is achieved.