Tune in as Black & LoBello offers free legal advice on a wide range of topics

Click here to listen to the Legal Hour on KDWN AM720 from May 2nd, 2012 in which Managing Partner, Tisha Black Chernine, Esq., hosts special guest, Jeffrey Morse, Esq., Special Counsel to Withers Worldwide.  Ms. Black Chernine and Mr. Morse discuss Abel v. BAC Home Loans Servicing LP et al, a current case in New York alleging that banks are laundering money overseas (2:15), problems with the stress tests for the major banks (12:40), tips for investment including real estate and offshore accounts (16:40), how to check house foreclosures (21:27), real estate agent unfair practices (25:30),  problems getting a loan modifications (29:30) and tips for successful asset protection (34:40).

Please tune in to AM720 KDWN’s “Legal Hour,” every Wednesday, from 9 AM to 10 AM.  Listen live on the radio or online.   Feel free to call in with your comments or questions at 702-257-5396.

To listen to past shows, visit our Media page.

Black & LoBello on AM720 KDWN

Click here to listen to the Legal Hour on KDWN AM720 from March 7th, 2012. Christopher Phillips, Esq., who practices Probate, hosts with guest lawyer Tiffany Ballenger, Esq., who practices Estate Planning and Asset Protection at the law firm Black & LoBello in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Ms. Ballenger and Mr. Phillips discuss how to protect assets against creditor issues (2:00),  what is adult guardianship (4:50), the guidelines that executors should follow (8:33), buying foreclosed homes with robo-signing issues (12:01), what trustees can and can’t do with assets (16:55), problems with real estate agents (20:40), statute of limitations on probate proceedings (26:40), suing banks to refinance mortgage loans (31:05) and how AB 284 makes banks halt foreclosures (33:08). 

Please tune in to AM720 KDWN’s “Legal Hour,” everyday, from 9 AM to 10 AM.  Listen live on the radio or online.   Feel free to call in with your comments or questions at 702-257-5396.

To listen to past shows, visit our Media page.

Black & LoBello on the Radio

Click here to listen to the Legal Hour on KDWN AM720 from Labor Day, September 5th, 2011. Christopher Phillips, Esq. hosts with guest lawyer Michele LoBello, Esq., fellow partner at the law firm Black & LoBello in Las Vegas, Nevada.   Mrs. LoBello and Mr. Phillips talk about estate planning when expecting a child, child guardianship priority issues, reimbursement for adult guardianship duties, revising holographic wills, insurance policy beneficiary issues and how to argue a change of custody.

Please tune in to AM720 KDWN’s “Legal Hour,” everyday, from 9 AM to 10 AM.  Listen live on the radio or online.   Feel free to call in with your comments or questions at 702-257-5396.

SB 221 is intended to improve the law relating to trust and estate issues with the following objectives: (a) to simplify the process of transferring assets at death, whether or not probate is required; (b) to clarify the rights of creditors as to nonprobate asset and trust assets; (c) to clarify exemptions from creditors’ claims that do apply; and (d) to improve and update our laws to make Nevada an ideal jurisdiction for probate and trust matters.

Some highlights of the Bill include Sections 73 and 177 which give additional strength to no-contest clauses in wills and trusts and clarify that with certain important exceptions, a beneficiary’s share can be reduced or eliminated if they violate the provisions that a settler or testator has set forth even if that conduct does not constitute a formal contest of the will or trust.

A major new addition to the probate code provides for the Independent Administration of Estates Act which expedites the probate process and reduces the administrative costs of probate by allowing a personal representative to act more independently, involving the probate court only when needed for disputes or significant issues. This Section should allow executors to conduct activity such as selling real estate without the additional court appearances, filing fees and attorney fees currently associated with selling a parcel of real property through the probate court.

Section 196 provides that when a trust authorizes or directs a trustee not to provide an accounting, a procedure exists where the trustee provides the account to one or more reviewers who will determine whether the beneficiary’s interest in the trust is being properly administered without revealing the details of the account to the beneficiary.

Christopher J. Phillips, Esq.

Everyone who wants to accomplish complete estate planning objectives should consider and implement a living trust-centered plan. A living trust-centered plan is the only type of estate planning that can meet all of the elements of our “definition” of effective estate planning.

Black & LoBello’s definition of effective estate planning:

  • I want to control my property while I am alive.
  • I want to take care of myself and my loved ones if I become disabled.
  • I want to give what I have to whom I want, the way I want, and when I want.
  • If I can, I want to save every last tax dollar, professional fee, and court cost possible.

Probate in Nevada starts when you have $20,000 or more in your name which is not much.  For this reason alone, many people should consider a living trust-based model for their estate planning needs.

Reason One: Control

The most important element of Black & LoBello’s definition of estate planning is control. The most important step to gain control of your assets is to create an effective estate plan. If you do not write your own plan, the state will write it for you.

If you die without an estate plan, you are deemed to have died intestate. In this case, state laws direct how your assets are to be inventoried, valued, and distributed. If you should become incapacitated without affecting formal planning for that event, there is another set of states laws that directs what will happen to you and your property.

State laws also control other aspects of one’s life and property. For example, joint tenancy property may be tied up in the courts if one of the joint tenants becomes incapacitated or if there are creditor problems. To exercise estate-planning control, you must take responsible action to implement and use your own estate plan to dictate your wishes, rather than leaving it to the state.

Reason Two: Incapacity

After control, the definition of estate planning addresses incapacity. Statistics show that the odds of suffering a debilitating mental or physical disability are about six times greater than the odds of dying. Because of the great risk of incapacity it is imperative to plan for such a life-changing event.

Through proper and effective planning, you can control how you are cared for during incapacity. Additionally, you may purchase long-term health care and/or disability insurance or implement savings plans. It is also possible to leave instructions about physical care in the event of incapacity.

Estate plans can succinctly direct how property and money should be used for the incapacitated and your loved ones, thereby overruling the state laws. In order to exercise this control, one must do so while still competent.

Reason Three: Giving Your Property to Whom You Want

After you have controlled your property while you are alive, and have planned for your incapacity, you can look forward to giving your property to others at a time or times of your choosing. The trust maker is able to transfer property during life as well as at death through the use of an effective trust plan. Nevada law allows the trust maker to control his property, and to pass it in the manner he chooses to the beneficiaries with amazing latitude and flexibility. However, you must initiate the process while still capable to do so.

Reason Four: Planning for Taxes and Expenses

The final part of Black & LoBello’s definition of estate planning addresses taxes, fees, and costs. One of the most famous quotations about taxes comes from Judge Learned Hand who wrote:

“Anyone may so arrange his affairs that his taxes shall be as low as possible; he is not bound to choose that pattern which will best pay the Treasury; there is not even a patriotic duty to increase one’s taxes.” (Gregory v. Helvering, 69-F.2d 809)

While saving on taxes and expenses is an important aspect to effective estate planning, be assured that Black & LoBello will not recommend actions that will compromise the first goal of maintaining control. Even if you do not have a taxable estate, probate costs can run anywhere from between three to twelve percent of the GROSS value of your estate.  The secret of good planning is to reduce taxes and costs while always retaining control.

Tiffany N. Ballenger, Esq.

Attorney Tiffany Ballenger practices Asset Protection, Elder Law, Estate Planning, and Medicaid and will be a featured speaker at the Solera Home Expo located at the Stallion Mountain Community Center.   Please come with your questions on Saturday, March 27th, 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM. 3736 Budenny Dr., Las Vegas
3/4 Mile East of Sam’s Town on Flamingo

As we enter the second year of widespread foreclosures and short sales in Clark County, we are just starting to figure out how the banks will behave.  Many are unaware that they can take proactive steps to minimize both the possibility and effects of when lenders pursue a deficiency action.

As always, the best defense is a good offense.  The best option available to those with assets is to engage in a preemptive strike: asset protection.  Several strategies can be used to properly protect properties, investments, and savings.

First and foremost, take advantage of state and federal exemption laws.  Homesteads in Nevada are protected up to $550,000 worth of equity in a primary residence with a proper homestead designation.  Other exemptions can be applied to funds in ERISA qualified plans and some of the cash values held in life insurance policies.  This means, if you are sued or have a judgment against you, assets or equity held in exempt resources cannot be collected.

Next, a proper structure using business entities can be used to remove assets from your personal name and place them in the name of the business.  This offers two types of protection; shielding a business from claims of its owners’ creditors and an owner’s assets from the claims of business creditors.  In certain circumstances, business owners may also see tax benefits from proper business formation.

Take, for example, Ann and Tom.  Ann and Tom have a house worth $400,000 that they paid cash for, and own a sole proprietorship business with cash accounts of around $50,000.  Ann manages their business while Tom works as a pharmacist.   They each have $50,000 in their 401(K)s and have about $10,000 worth of cash value in whole life insurance.  They have three children, all under the age of 18.  Unfortunately, they also own a rental property worth about $200,000 less than what they paid.  They both signed on the loan.  Ann and Tom also have about $100,000 in savings in their joint savings account.   They are up to date on all of their mortgage payments but are thinking of a possible strategic default on the underwater investment property.

What can Ann and Tom do to protect their assets (home, 401(K)s, cash value, business assets) from potential claims if they default on their investment property?

There are many possible solutions for every situation. Here are some possible recommendations for Ann and Tom:

  • File a Declaration of Homestead for their primary residence. This quick, inexpensive method may protect all of the equity in their home and involves only a trip to the Recorder’s office and approximately $20.00 in recording fees.
  • Take advantage of state and federal deductions.
    • As long as their 401(K)s are ERISA qualified, all of the funds are protected from any judgment rendered against them.
    • Additionally, Nevada offers protection to Ann and Tom’s life insurance benefits as long as the annual premiums on the policy do not exceed $15,000.
    • They may want to take some of their savings and put it into 529 plans to save for their children’s education, which have various tax and asset protection advantages.
  • Set up a proper business structure.
    • A sole proprietorship offers little or no asset protection for the owners of the business or the business assets.  A better strategy is to form a Nevada limited liability company.  This provides protection of the business’s assets from Ann and Tom’s creditors.  Also, if the business itself is sued, Ann and Tom’s assets may be protected as well.
    • Tom may also want to form a separate company for his pharmacy practice since that particular profession has a high risk of being sued.
  • Pursue negotiations with the bank.
    • Ann and Tom might try to negotiate a loan modification with the bank or work out a short sale.  However, if they do not engage in proper planning before submitting their financial statement to the lender, the outcome could be less than ideal.
    • Again, proper structuring is important.  A short sale has many advantages over a foreclosure and Ann and Tom should sit down with a qualified attorney before deciding which courses of action to take.

Tiffany N. Ballenger, Esq.

An Introduction to Elder Law

Many people either do not know what elder law attorneys do or just assume they sue nursing homes and write $100 wills.  On the contrary, elder law covers a wide array of legal areas dealing with progressive life changes.

Traditional estate planning attorneys help clients plan for their estate which is necessary, but still insufficient for their needs.  Very quickly, clients start dealing with issues including a developing disability, ongoing struggles with a spouse, and deaths of loved ones’.  Considering the recent financial crisis, these issues add heavily to the stress of where best to spend money.  Folks spend their retirement savings in less than a year for nursing home care.  Families agonize over whether to send their kids to college or pay for a parent’s care in a skilled nursing facility. 

Therefore, elder law should help people plan for their lives, not just their deaths.  A great deal of elder law includes planning for payment of long-term care such as self pay, LTC insurance, Medicaid, or VA benefits.  Clients can determine what options for long-term care work best for their family such as assisted living, home health care, or a nursing home. 

Other areas of Elder Law practice include:

  • Guardianship over a person, their estate, and many times, both;
  • Not-so-traditional estate planning;
  • Estate settlement;
  • Advanced Health Care Directives & compliance with HIPAA laws;
  • Access to benefits including Medicare, Medicaid, and VA benefits; and
  • Financial and retirement planning. 

As more baby boomers enter retirement, these areas of law will grow in demand as the need for advanced planning and long-term care increases.

Tiffany N. Ballenger, Esq.

Protecting Your Children's Assets

Q:  I’m a big fan of Michael Jackson and am so sorry that he passed away.  While I was watching the funeral, I noticed that his children Paris, Prince and Blanket looked so sad.  Then I found out their mother Debbie Rowe, and Grandmother Katherine Jackson may get into a big legal fight over their custody and money to raise them.  If Michael Jackson had a will why didn’t it take care of these problems? 

A:  That is an excellent question.  Of course, we are not privy to Michael Jackson’s will or estate plan so we cannot provide information on his specific situation.  We can, however, give you some information on basic estate planning tools. 

A will is a basic legal document that is a starting point for any discussion of an estate plan.  A will explains to the world, and a judge, what you planned to happen to your family and assets after you pass away.  A will allows you to designate specific property to be given to (“bequeathed”) specific persons, to select a guardian for your children if the other parent has predeceased you, and to choose whom you want to receive your property.  

A trust is another estate planning tool.  A trust is more flexible than a will, because you can use it while you are still alive.  A trust is a legal arrangement in which the “grantor” transfers property to the trust for the benefit of a person or persons.  The grantor appoints a “trustee” to manage the property and assets in the trust.  A trust may be designed to protect the assets from a young, immature beneficiary until that person grows up.   By using a trust, one parent can provide support to his or her children, without giving control of the money to an ex-spouse or ex-partner after a divorce.  Trusts may also be used to care for elderly parents or disabled children. 

Other estate planning tools include life insurance.  Term life insurance provides coverage for periods of time.  Whole life insurance can provide coverage for the rest of one’s life.  There are also IRAs, mutual funds and stocks that can provide money for survivors.

A lot of estate planning advertising talks about “avoiding probate.”  Probate is procedure that takes place in court.  There are procedures, set out in Nevada law, which survivors must use to have the decedent’s assets pass to survivors.   There are planning techniques that can be used to avoid probate in the correct circumstances. 

Estate taxes are taxes charged by the federal government, and some states, on the amount of money and other assets left behind by the deceased.  Some estate planning techniques may allow a person to legally reduce the amount of taxes that will be owed by an estate. 

Estate planning can help a person plan what happens to their family and assets while they are alive and after they pass away.  If you are interested in estate planning, consult a professional for advice and guidance.


The information contained on this website is designed to enable you to learn more about the services that Black & LoBello offers to its clients. These materials do not, and are not intended to, constitute legal advice, nor are they intended as a source of advertising or solicitation. Your use of this website does not create or constitute an attorney-client relationship. You should not consider these materials to be an invitation for an attorney-client relationship. Further, you should not rely on the information provided on this website without first obtaining separate legal advice.

Tisha Black Chernine awarded for
Mountain States Rising Stars 2011

Michele T. LoBello awarded for 
Nevada Super Lawyers 2007

Black & LoBello is an AV® Preeminent rated, locally owned, full service law firm in Las Vegas, Nevada.