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What You Can Learn from the Leno Conservatorship Proceedings | Reno Estate Planning Lawyers

When most people think about creating an estate plan, they usually focus on what will happen when they die. They typically do not consider what their wishes would be if they were alive but unable to manage their own affairs (in other words, if they are alive but incapacitated). In many cases, failing to plan for incapacity can result in families having to seek court involvement to manage a loved one’s affairs. It does not matter who you are, how old you are, or how much you have—having a proper plan in place to address your incapacity or death is necessary for everyone. Recently, comedian and late-night talk show host Jay Leno had to seek court involvement to handle his and his wife’s estate planning needs due to his wife’s incapacity. Consulting with Reno estate planning lawyers can help you avoid such situations.

married man on computer getting help Reno estate planning attorney

What Is a Conservator?

A conservator is a court-appointed person who manages the financial affairs for a person who is unable to manage their affairs themselves (also known as the ward). In Nevada, a conservator is known as a Guardian. The conservator is responsible for managing the ward’s money and property and any other financial or legal matters that may arise. They are also required to periodically file information with the court to prove that they are abiding by their duties. To have a conservator appointed, an interested person must petition the court, attend a hearing, and be appointed by a judge. This can be very time-consuming, and there are court and attorney costs that must be paid along the way. Reno estate planning lawyers can help streamline this process and provide necessary guidance.

Jay Leno’s Petition to the Court

In January 2024, Jay Leno petitioned the court to be appointed as the conservator of the estate of his wife, Mavis Leno, so that he could have an estate plan prepared on her behalf and for her benefit. Unfortunately, Mrs. Leno has been diagnosed with dementia and has impaired memory. Her impairment has made it impossible for her to create her own estate plan or participate in the couple’s joint planning. According to court documents, Mr. Leno wanted to set up a living trust and other estate planning documents to ensure that his wife would have “managed assets sufficient to provide for her care” if he were to die before her. Right now, Mr. Leno is managing the couple’s finances, but he wanted to prepare for a time when he is no longer able to do so.

On April 9, 2024, the court granted Mr. Leno’s petition. According to the court documents, the judge determined that a conservatorship was necessary and that Mr. Leno was “suitable and qualified” to be appointed as such. During the proceedings, the judge found “clear and convincing evidence that a Conservatorship of the Estate is necessary and appropriate.”

Although there was a favorable outcome in this particular case, it still took several months for Mr. Leno to be appointed by the court. In addition to the initial filings and court appearances, there will likely be ongoing court filing requirements to ensure that Mrs. Leno’s money is being managed appropriately. Had they prepared an estate plan ahead of time, much of this time and hassle would likely have been avoided. Reno estate planning lawyers can assist in preparing these crucial documents ahead of time to prevent such scenarios.

Important Takeaways

While many people may dismiss the Lenos’ experience as something that applies only to the rich and famous, the truth is that you could find yourself in the same situation (although with a smaller amount of money and property at play) if you are not careful. Let’s use this opportunity to learn from their mistakes.

We can help you and your loved ones regardless of where you find yourself in the estate planning process. Whether you are looking to proactively plan to ensure that your wishes are carried out during all phases of your life, or if you need assistance with a loved one who can no longer manage their own affairs, give us a call. Our team of Reno estate planning lawyers is here to assist you.

What Is Next for Your Estate Plan?

Having an estate plan is a great way to ensure you and your loved ones are protected today and in the future. When creating an estate plan with our estate planning attorneys in Reno, we look at what is going on in your life at that time. But because life is full of changes, it is important to make sure your plan can change to accommodate whatever life throws your way. Sometimes, we can make your first estate plan flexible to account for potential life changes. Other times, we must change or add to the tools we use to ensure that your ever-evolving wishes will be carried out the way you want.

Family in their new estate

Life Changes that Could Impact the Tools in Your Estate Plan

Life is constantly changing. The following are some important events that may require you to reevaluate your estate plan in Reno:

Ways We Can Enhance Your Estate Plan

It is important to know when you create your first estate plan in Reno, that you are not locked into this plan for the rest of your life. The following are common changes we can make to your estate plan to ensure that we adequately address your evolving concerns and wishes.

Transitioning from a Last Will and Testament to a Revocable Living Trust

A will (sometimes referred to as a last will and testament) is a tool that allows you to leave your money and property to anyone you choose. It names a trusted decision-maker (a personal representative or executor) to wind up your affairs at your death, lists how your money and property will be distributed, and appoints a guardian to care for your minor children. If you rely on a will as your primary estate planning tool, the probate court will oversee the entire administration process at your death, but the probate process is expensive, time-consuming, and on the public record.

On the other hand, a revocable living trust is a tool in which a trustee is appointed to hold title to and manage the accounts and property that you transfer to your trust for one or more beneficiaries. Typically, you will serve as the initial trustee and be the primary beneficiary. If you are incapacitated (unable to manage your affairs), the backup trustee will step in and manage the trust for your benefit with little interruption and with less potential for costly court involvement. Upon your death, the backup trustee manages and distributes the money and property according to your instructions in the trust document, again without court involvement.

If your wealth has grown or you have new loved ones to provide for, you may find the privacy, expediency, and potential cost-savings associated with a revocable living trust more appropriate for your situation. Consult with Estate Planning Reno to see if this option is right for you.

Adding an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust

At some point, you may decide that you need life insurance—or more of it—to provide for your loved ones sufficiently. If the value of your life insurance is especially high, you may want to consider adding protection for the funds in your estate plan, as well as engaging in estate tax planning. Both goals can be accomplished by using an irrevocable life insurance trust (ILIT). Once you create the ILIT, you fund it either by transferring ownership of an existing life insurance policy into the trust or by having the trust purchase a new life insurance policy. Once the trust owns a policy, you then make cash gifts to the trust to pay for the insurance premiums. These gifts can count against your annual gift tax exclusion, so you likely will not owe taxes at the point of these transfers. Upon your death, the trust receives the death benefit of the policy, and the trustee holds and distributes the money according to your instructions in the trust document. This tool allows you to remove the value of the life insurance policy and the death benefit from your taxable estate while allowing you to control what will happen to the death benefit. An ILIT can also be helpful if you want to name beneficiaries for the trust who differ from the beneficiaries you name in other estate planning tools.

Adding a Charitable Trust

As you accumulate more wealth or become more philanthropically inclined, you may wish to include separate tools to benefit a cause that is near and dear to your heart. Depending on your unique tax situation, using tools such as a charitable remainder or charitable lead trust can allow you to use your accounts or property that are increasing in value to benefit the charity while offering you some potential tax deductions.

A charitable remainder trust (CRT) is a tool designed to potentially reduce both your taxable income during life and estate tax exposure when you die by transferring cash or property out of your name (in other words, you will no longer be the owner). As part of this strategy, you will fund the trust with the money or property of your choosing. The property will then be sold, and the sales proceeds will be invested in a way that will produce a stream of income. The CRT is designed so that when it sells the property, the CRT will not have to pay capital gains tax on the sale of the stocks or real estate. Once the stream of income from the CRT is initiated, you will receive either a set amount of money per year or a fixed percentage of the value of the trust (depending on how the trust is worded) for a term of years. When the term is over, the remaining amount in the trust will be distributed to the charity you have chosen.

A charitable lead trust (CLT) operates in much the same way as the CRT. The major difference is that the charity, rather than you as the trustmaker, receives the income stream for a term of years. Once the term has passed, the individuals you have named in the trust agreement will receive the remainder. This can be an excellent way to benefit a charity while still providing for your loved ones. Also, you may receive a deduction for the value of the charitable gifts that are made periodically over the term. These deductions may offset the gift or estate tax that may be owed when the remaining amount is given to your beneficiaries.

Adding Documents to Care for Your Minor Child

If you have not reviewed your estate plan since having or adopting children, you should consider incorporating some additional tools into your estate plan with estate planning attorneys in Reno. An important tool recognized in Nevada is a document that grants temporary guardianship over your minor child. This can be used if you are traveling without your child or are in a situation where you are unable to quickly respond to your child’s emergency. This document gives a designated individual the authority to make decisions on behalf of the minor child (with the exception of agreeing to the marriage or adoption of the child). This document is usually only effective for six months to a year but can last for a longer or shorter period, depending on your state’s law. You still maintain the ability to make decisions for your child, but you empower another person to have this authority in the event you cannot address the situation immediately.

Let Us Elevate Your Estate Planning In Reno

We are committed to making sure that your wishes are carried out in the way that you want. For us to do our job, we must ensure that your wishes are properly documented and that any relevant changes in your circumstances are accounted for in your estate plan. If you need an estate plan review or update, give us a call. Our expert team at Estate Planning Reno is here to assist you.

Life is unpredictable, and a sudden disability can throw even the best-laid estate plans into chaos. Understanding how to adapt your estate plan to accommodate new disability considerations is crucial for ensuring peace of mind and financial security for you and your loved ones. This guide will help you navigate this challenging situation with the assistance of a Reno estate attorney.

Understanding How a Disability Affects Your Current Estate Plan

Reno estate attorney specifically at Anderson, Dorn, and Rader, helping a client

Impact on Existing Plans

When a disability occurs, it can significantly impact your existing estate plan. Assets you intended to leave to your loved ones may need to be reallocated to cover unexpected medical expenses and long-term care costs. Moreover, the management of your estate might need to be adjusted to accommodate the new circumstances. A Reno estate attorney can help you reassess your plan and make necessary adjustments to ensure your assets are protected and allocated according to your new needs.

Reviewing Beneficiary Designations

One of the first steps to take is reviewing your beneficiary designations. Ensure that these designations align with your current wishes and the new needs created by the disability. This includes reviewing life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and other financial instruments to ensure that your estate plan remains intact and beneficial to all involved. Your Reno estate attorney can assist in this review to ensure accuracy and alignment with your updated goals.

Legal Tools and Documents to Update in Response to Disability

Power of Attorney

Updating your power of attorney documents is essential. This legal tool allows you to designate someone to make financial and healthcare decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. Ensure your chosen representative understands your wishes and is prepared to act in your best interest. A Reno estate attorney can help you explore your options and integrate long-term care insurance into your overall plan.

Living Will

A living will outlines your healthcare preferences should you become unable to communicate them. Updating this document to reflect any new medical conditions or preferences resulting from the disability is critical. It ensures that your healthcare decisions are respected and followed.

Your Reno estate attorney can collaborate with your financial planner to create a comprehensive plan that addresses all aspects of your financial needs.

Financial Provisions for Long-Term Care and Disability Support

Long-Term Care Insurance

Consider investing in long-term care insurance if you haven't already. This type of insurance can cover expenses that traditional health insurance does not, such as nursing home care, in-home care, and assisted living facilities. It can be a

crucial component of your updated estate plan.

Budgeting for Disability Expenses

Work with a financial planner to budget for the new expenses associated with the disability. This may include medical treatments, home modifications, and daily living assistance. Proper financial planning can help ensure that your estate remains solvent and can continue to support your loved ones.

Role of Special Needs Trusts and Guardianships

Special Needs Trusts

A special needs trust can be an invaluable tool for managing the finances of a disabled loved one without jeopardizing their eligibility for government assistance programs. These trusts allow you to set aside funds specifically for the care of the disabled person, ensuring their needs are met without compromising their benefits. A Reno estate attorney can help you establish and manage a special needs trust tailored to your situation.


In some cases, establishing a guardianship may be necessary. A guardianship gives someone the legal authority to make decisions on behalf of the disabled person. This can provide peace of mind, knowing that a trusted individual is managing the affairs of your loved one in accordance with your wishes.

Adapting your estate plan in light of a disability requires careful consideration and expert guidance. By understanding the impacts on your current plan, updating essential legal documents, making financial provisions for long-term care, and utilizing tools like special needs trusts and guardianships, you can ensure that your estate plan continues to serve its intended purpose.

At Anderson, Dorn & Rader Ltd., we are here to help you navigate these changes. Contact us for a personalized consultation to discuss how we can adapt your estate plan to meet new disability cons

iderations, ensuring peace of mind and financial security for you and your family.

As you approach retirement, it's essential to understand how different components of your financial portfolio fit into your estate plan. Pensions and other retirement accounts, such as IRAs and 401(k)s, each have unique characteristics and are treated differently in estate planning. This article will explore these differences to help you make informed decisions and ensure your estate plan is comprehensive and effective. For personalized advice, consider consulting an estate planning attorney in Reno.

a man who got assistance with estate planning reno and has his pension

Understanding the Nature of Pensions vs. Retirement Accounts

What is a Pension?

A pension is a retirement plan that provides a fixed monthly income to retirees, typically funded by employers. Pensions are often referred to as defined benefit plans because they promise a specified benefit amount upon retirement, usually based on factors such as years of service and salary history.

What Are Retirement Accounts?

Retirement accounts, such as IRAs and 401(k)s, are defined contribution plans where employees contribute a portion of their salary, often matched by employers, into investment accounts. The final amount available at retirement depends on the contributions made and the investment performance of the account.

How Pensions Are Handled in Estate Plans

Pensions and Estate Planning

Pensions are generally not directly included in an estate plan because they provide a lifetime income to the retiree and, in some cases, a surviving spouse. Upon the retiree's death, the pension benefits may cease or continue at a reduced rate to the spouse, depending on the plan's provisions.

Survivor Benefits

Many pensions offer survivor benefits, allowing a designated beneficiary, usually a spouse, to receive benefits after the retiree's death. It's crucial to understand the specific terms of your pension plan to ensure your spouse or other beneficiaries are adequately provided for.

Comparative Legal Frameworks Affecting Pensions and IRAs/401(k)s

Legal Differences

Pensions and defined contribution plans like IRAs and 401(k)s fall under different legal frameworks. Pensions are governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and must comply with specific regulations concerning benefit distributions and protections for beneficiaries.

Estate Plan Integration

While pensions often bypass the estate process due to their structure, IRAs and 401(k)s can be more directly managed within an estate plan. Beneficiary designations for these accounts can be updated to reflect changes in your estate planning goals, offering greater flexibility in asset distribution.

Tax Implications for Pensions and Retirement Accounts in Estate Planning

Tax Treatment of Pensions

Pension benefits are generally subject to federal income tax when received by the retiree or surviving spouse. However, these benefits typically do not generate additional estate tax implications because they are not considered part of the retiree's estate.

Tax Treatment of IRAs and 401(k)s

IRAs and 401(k)s, on the other hand, can have significant tax implications. The value of these accounts is included in the estate and may be subject to estate taxes. Additionally, beneficiaries who inherit these accounts may face income tax on distributions. Proper planning can help mitigate these tax burdens and maximize the benefits to your heirs.

Incorporating pensions and other retirement accounts into your estate plan requires a thorough understanding of their unique characteristics and legal considerations. While pensions provide a steady income stream and often include survivor benefits, IRAs and 401(k)s offer more flexibility in terms of beneficiary designations and estate planning strategies.

To ensure your estate plan is comprehensive and tailored to your needs, contact Anderson, Dorn & Rader Ltd. for personalized advice. We can help you navigate the complexities of estate planning, ensuring your financial legacy is protected and optimized for your beneficiaries. Join our free webinar on estate planning essentials to learn more.

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