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.

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:

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


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 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

Understanding Development in the Lake Tahoe Basin

Jordan Walsh, Allison MacKenzie Law Firm

In Jordan Walsh’s recent article Navigating Lake Tahoe Development, she explores changes in the area and what pitfalls potential developments should be aware of. Development in the region is complicated but not impossible and understanding how to “redevelop” and “revitalize” within current regulations is vital for individuals looking to develop sites within the Basin.

As visitor use has changed over the decades from gaming to experiential based adventures, the Basin is faced with new challenges in addressing projects that meet the needs of this new visitor while understanding and supporting the requirements of the community. Over the last decade, these communities have worked closely with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) and community leaders to ensure that environmental health of the Basin is maintained while making the area is more accessible to visitors. Specifically, changes implemented within TRPA’s 2012 Regional Plan Update (RPU), received unprecedented community support during its development. The updates fostered a new emphasis on “sustainable communities” while promoting increased development in “urban centers.”

While these changes make it an exciting time for communities, developers, and citizens in the Basin, it is important to ensure that your project is operating in compliance with the requisite guidelines. If you are seeking to develop sites within the Lake Tahoe Basin or have questions about the planning and permitting process related to a project, contact Allison MacKenzie Law Firm. Jordan Walsh or one of our many talented attorneys are available to assist you in navigating the intricate and complicated regulatory landscape of the Tahoe Basin.

Read the complete article at: Northern Nevada Business Weekly.

Jordan Walsh is an associate with the Carson City based law firm of Allison MacKenzie. Primarily, she practices in the areas of Civil Litigation, Real Estate Law and Land Use Law. Jordan was admitted to practice in Nevada and California in 2014 and is knowledgeable about the unique challenges facing the Tahoe Basin. Jordan can be reached at 775.687.0202 or

Allison MacKenzie Partners Named Nevada Top Attorneys

Chris Mackenzie 200

Christopher “Chris” MacKenzie

James Cavilia

James Cavilia







Allison MacKenzie Law Firm Partners Voted as Two of Northern Nevada’s Top Attorneys by Peers

Nevada Business Weekly recently announced the 2016 Legal Elite. For the past nine years, Legal Elite has highlighted Nevada’s top attorneys as selected by a community of their peers; only 3.7 percent of attorneys in the Silver State receive this coveted recognition. This year, over 6,000 nominations were received in four categories: Northern Nevada, Southern Nevada, The Best Up and Coming, and Top Government Attorneys. Allison MacKenzie Law Firm partners Chris MacKenzie and James Cavilia were voted as two of Northern Nevada’s Top Attorneys.

Chris and James are native Nevadans and received their undergraduate degrees from the University of Nevada, Reno. After graduating from the University of Idaho School of Law in 1993, Chris MacKenzie joined Allison MacKenzie and has been practicing law for 23 years. His practice primarily focuses on Business Law, including the areas of Contracts, Real Estate, Water Law, and Administrative Law. James Cavilia was admitted to practice in both Nevada and California after obtaining a law degree from Santa Clara University School of Law. He joined Allison MacKenzie Law Firm in 1992 and focuses his efforts on Real Property, Land Use, and Business Law.

The Legal Elite 2016 election process is complicated and thorough, ensuring that exceptional attorneys are recognized for their contributions to the legal field. After the nomination process is complete, all voting attorneys are vetted through the State Bar of Nevada to ensure eligibility and to confirm good standing within the state. Additionally, after final scores were tabulated, top nominees were verified with the State Bar of Nevada before final selection was announced.

To read the complete article, please visit: Nevada Business Weekly.