Guiding You in All Aspects of Estate & Business Planning

Family Wealth Inventory & Assessment Worksheet

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The Family Wealth Inventory and Assessment is designed to help you focus in on the important information and questions that are necessary to get your legal and financial house in order.

We ask you to fill it out and return it to us in advance of our appointment so that we can have the most productive time together.

  1. Print the Family Wealth Inventory & Assessment worksheet.
  2. Fill in as much as you can.
  3. Make an appointment with us to discuss your plan.
  4. Return the Family Wealth Inventory & Assessment worksheet to us at least 3 days in advance of our appointment.

If the worksheet does not open, you may need to download the ‘Free’ Acrobat Reader here.

Estate Planning

Planning for Everyone You Love and Everything You Have

Do you know what would happen legally- to you, your loved ones, your money – if something unexpected happened to you?

Even if you don’t have an estate plan, your state has a plan for you.

Do you know what the people you love would have to deal with if something unexpected happen to you? If you don’t know, then the first step is to find out exactly what would happen, legally and financially, so that you can decide if the current state of your affairs is okay with you.

To do this, we conduct a Family Wealth Planning Session, where we spend time together and you’ll get informed. Before your Family Wealth Planning Session, you will complete a Family Wealth Inventory and Assessment, which will help you to get clear about what you own and what you have to think about when it comes to planning for the well-being and care of your loved ones and loved belongings. If you decide the current state of affairs is unacceptable, and if we both decide that it’s a fit to work together, then we can design an estate plan together that will best suit the needs of your family.

The foundation of your estate plan will often include a revocable living trust, where you transfer your property into this trust for your benefit during your life. One of the benefits of a revocable living trust is that when done correctly and maintained over time, your estate plan should help your family to avoid the cost and delay of probate and minimize or eliminate estate taxes.

For people with additional needs, we provide advanced estate planning services.

Unfortunately, most plans don’t work because much of what passes for estate planning is little more than word processing. You are asked a few questions and then the drafter decides which “plan” is right for you, and fits you into a template. This is not estate planning; it is little more than a “search and replace” of your family’s name and then a hit of the “print” button which spits out form documents.

Your Personal Family Lawyer at VMGokea will educate you, take the time to get to know you, your family, your concerns, your goals and your issues and will gladly and patiently answer all your questions to produce an estate plan that is exactly right for you.

If you are a family with young children, then your estate plan should begin with a foundation that ensures your children would always be taken care of, no matter what happens. At VMGokea, one of our areas of greatest expertise is protecting minor children.

What Would Happen to Your Kids if the Unthinkable Happened to You? Did you know that 69% of parents have not yet named guardians for their kids?

Of those who have, most have made one of 6 common mistakes most parents (and their lawyers!) make when naming guardians.

Don’t let this happen to your family!

Get the inside scoop on child protection planning here.

Without proper planning, if the unthinkable happens to you, here’s what could happen:

  1. Your children could be placed into Child Protective Services even if you have a will in place; even if you have a living trust;
  2. A Judge who doesn’t know you, or your family, will decide who will raise your kids, even if it’s the last person you would ever want;
  3. Approximately 5% of the total value of your assets could be lost due to probate, a court process that can tie up your assets for months or years and deprive your kids of the resources they need to live comfortably;
  4. When your kids turn 18, they get a check for whatever assets are left;
  5. There are unscrupulous people who make it their business to review public records to find out what 18 year olds are coming into money;
  6. The vast majority of estate planning attorneys do not address these issues, and do not plan from a parents perspective.

We have dedicated our life’s work to make sure these things don’t happen! That’s why we offer a Kids Protection Plan with every estate plan we do for families with young children.

If you are a family with young children, then your estate plan should begin with a foundation that ensures your children would always be taken care of no matter what happens. At VMGokea, one of our areas of expertise is protecting minor children.

We have developed our practice to ensure these things don’t happen! That’s why we offer a Kids Protection Plan with every estate plan we do for families with young children. See www.lifeplanlegal.kidsprotectionplan.com/.

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Elder Law & Medicaid Planning

New York Elder Law Attorney: Medicaid Planning

Most seniors will require some form of nursing home or long-term care during their elderly years. At VM Gokea Law, we understand the multitude of emotions that come with preparing for this reality:

  • Parents who are afraid of being lost in the system or becoming a burden for their children
  • Children who only want the best for their parents, but do not know how to find such care or how such care can be afforded
  • Families who are concerned about preserving the legacy of a loved one and are fearful of losing such legacies to nursing home costs

At the VM Gokea Law, we are dedicated to serving as your personal family lawyer as we serve your family’s legal needs through all generations of life. Contact us to schedule an appointment with a skilled New York elder law attorney.

We discuss long-term care options and asset protection strategies with clients, as well as Medicaid planning strategies that enable clients to become eligible for government-funded services to cover nursing home and long-term care costs.

Helping Families Afford Long-Term Care

Very few families can afford more than a few months of nursing home care without depleting their entire estate. While some people purchase long-term care insurance to alleviate the cost of such care, most people will need Medicaid to cover the expense of nursing home, assisted living, and other long-term care.

Proactive Life Planning

Proactive Medicaid planning is essential to becoming eligible for benefits when they are needed. Our law firm helps clients navigate the complex Medicaid rules and eligibility requirements, keeping in mind federal look back periods, asset-transfer penalties, and waiting periods that ultimately affect if, and when, an individual may become eligible for Medicaid benefits.

Contact a New York Lawyer for Medicaid Planning

Please contact VM Gokea Law to schedule a complimentary, no-obligation initial consultation with the New York Medicaid planning attorney, Varvara Gokea.

We are available during regular office hours and on weeknights and weekends by appointment. We look forward to meeting and working with you to find legal solutions that meet your needs. Call (212) 937-8420.

Guardianship

Guardianship Explained by VM Gokea Law Attorney, Varvara M. Gokea

Read what our satisfied clients have to say about our Estate Planning Services.

Thank you Varvara for opening our eyes. We did not name guardians for our children until Varvara Gokea began the conversation. I feel relieved like some heavy burden from my sub-conscience has been removed.”

Guardianship comes up in a couple of different situations – 1) where a juvenile has a parent that can no longer take care of them for a variety of reasons, and the child is placed into the care of an appointed guardian or 2) where a parent can no longer make healthcare and financial decisions so a guardian must be appointed to these decisions for the child.

A child would generally be placed in the care of a guardian after the death or incapacity of both parents. If you speak with a VM Gokea Law Attorney who specializes in matters like guardianship, you can make sure that your children will be in the care of someone you chose.  Making provisions for these matters while you are alive is critical this way your wishes are honored during a time of challenge and uncertainty.

Different Types of Guardianships That VM Gokea Law Can Help With

There are a couple different types of guardianship that we can assist you with:

Probate Guardianship of the Person: A guardian of the person is responsible for meeting the child’s basic needs, including protecting and safeguarding the child, and providing food, clothing, and shelter – as well as medical care and education. This is type one of the guardianships we can help you with.

Probate Guardianship of the Estate: A guardian of the estate may typically be provided for when a child has inherited a large sum of money or property from a deceased parent. The guardian will manage the child’s financial affairs until the child reaches the age of majority (18 years), and in many cases the surviving parent will assume the role. For more information on probate guardianships, contact Varvara for more info.

Choose The Experience of VM Gokea Law To Protect Your Children

Many parents have not yet taken the steps to protect their children in unfortunate circumstances. Whatever the reason, be it fear, not knowing the next step or just being too busy, make sure to get the information you need by talking to us about guardianship matters. If you have been considering speaking with Varvara about your family matters, contact Varvara today to set up an appointment by calling us at (212) 937-8420.

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Asset Protection Planning

Nobody expects to be sued. Just ask the 20 million people involved in lawsuits last year.

Divorce, inheritance, health issues, creditors, employees, theft, changing markets, malpractice suits, sexual harassment claims, natural disasters and disgruntled business partners are just a few issues that can result in devastating lawsuits for unprepared business owners. The highest level of risk falls on those who think they are immune.

Americans are now more concerned than ever about protecting their assets from creditor claims, taxes and disasters. Will you be signing loan documents, a personal guaranty or a lease? Do you have rental properties or employees? Are you an attorney or physician? Do you work in construction or perform professional services? Do you have children from a prior marriage? Smart asset-ownership structures can protect you and your business against subsequent creditor enforcement actions. Hiring VMGokea Law to design your asset protection plan could be the difference between reaching your financial goals and losing everything!

We assist our clients in determining the appropriate level of asset protection planning for their particular circumstances. We will consider insurance, prenuptial agreements, asset segregation, choice of jurisdiction, gifting, LLCs, partnerships, corporations, and asset protection trusts. Customized combinations are layered depending on the needs of the client and as appropriate.

There are many different strategies to accomplish the protection of your assets while you are alive and after you are gone. To find out which strategies may be right for you, contact us for a Family Wealth Planning Meeting.

And if you have a business, your very first step is to ensure that your business is set up correctly; contact us for a Small Business Legal Audit.

Conservatorship

While our focus at VM Gokea Law is on estate planning and closely related practice areas, we are frequently asked about issues involving conservatorships. As an additional resource for our clients, we maintain a list of practitioners who we feel confident will provide sound counsel and legal representation in this area. Should you need a referral, please feel free to call our office and we will be happy to provide a few recommendations.

A Conservatorship is a legal process in which the rights and property of an adult (defined as an individual 18 or older) deemed incapable of managing his or her own affairs, known as the Conservatee, are exercised by another adult, known as the Conservator. Choosing an appropriate Conservator is obviously a critical decision, since it dramatically impacts the individual’s emotional, physical and financial well-being. You need an attorney with the experience, understanding and compassion to help you select an appropriate Conservator for your incapacitated loved one, as well as provide sound legal counsel if you have chosen to serve as Conservator yourself.

It should be noted that if you think you might become incapacitated in the near future, or want to prepare for such a possibility well in advance, we can help you choose a pre-need Conservator and counsel him or her when the time comes. One of the greatest gifts you can give your family is choosing a pre-need conservator in advance, thereby sparing yourself and loved ones the stress and emotional pain of a formal Conservatorship.

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Entity Formation

When starting a business, you may choose from several business forms or organizations. A variety of organizational structures are available for transacting business in your state. Choosing the proper business entity for your business is vital to the success of your project.

One of the primary considerations in selecting a business organization is protection of the owners of the business from liability. Other considerations include tax treatment by the federal and state governments, management structure, future ownership, and capitalization. State laws determine how particular entities should be set up and conduct their business. These laws are very specific and set out the legal responsibility of each business form. Taxing authorities and regulatory agencies also have laws that pertain to business. The most common business structures are described below:

  • General Partnership
  • Limited Liability Partnership
  • Limited Partnership
  • Limited Liability Limited Partnership
  • Limited Liability Company
  • Corporation
  • S Corporation

A very brief description/definition of the aforementioned entities is set forth below:

A general partnership is a partnership in which all partners participate fully in running the business and share equally in profits and losses. While forming a general partnership is easy (there are no filing fees or filing formalities), partners of a general partnership are typically jointly and severally liable for all debts and obligations of the general partnership.

A limited liability partnership is like a general partnership. The LLLP allows all the partners to take an active role in the management of the business while offering members some liability protection from actions of the other partners and the partnership and the partnership employees. LLLPs are most often used by groups of professionals such as doctors, accountants or architects.

Limited partnerships are partnerships comprised of one or more persons who control the business as general partner(s), and one or more persons (limited partners) who contribute capital and share profits but who do not manage the business and are liable only for their amount of their contribution to the limited partnership.

A limited liability limited partnership (LLLP) is a limited partnership which registers with the Secretary of State as an LLLP. One effect of registration is to limit the vicarious liability of the general partners in the same fashion that registration as an LLP limits the liability of the general partners of a general partnership.

A limited liability company is a statutorily created entity comprised of members with limited liability. Limited liability companies can be managed by either their members or managers.

A corporation is an entity that has the authority to act as a single person distinct from the shareholders that make up the corporation. Some of the advantages to operating a corporation include its limited liability for shareholders, centralization of management and status as a separate legal entity.

The S Corporation is a corporation that chooses to be taxed under Subchapter S of the Internal Revenue Tax Code. Being an S Corporation is a tax matter only. S Corporations are “tax pass through” business entities, meaning their profits and losses are reported by their owners on the owners’ personal tax returns.

Contact us.

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Small Business General Counsel Services

Many of our clients are business owners. We have advised entrepreneurs from family-owned “mom and pop” operations to companies with multiple locations in several states. We help business owners design, implement and maintain effective plans to help them reduce their personal liability, preserve all viable income tax deductions, facilitate the owner’s retirement, maintain family harmony, retain key employees and minimize income, gift and estate taxes.

To help owners protect estates and businesses that have been a lifetime in the making, we focus on an integrated approach to planning. This approach includes legal, insurance, financial and tax planning issues. More important, it includes discussions about family values and belief systems. As a result, we rely heavily on the expertise of our clients’ other professional advisors to help create the most effective team for our clients’ success.

Some of our business representation is done on an hourly basis. Hourly rates differ for attorneys and paralegals. We will give you a “best estimate” of the total fee based on the scope of the work we’re hired to do. Generally, we will give you a maximum amount that we will not exceed without permission. In most cases, however, we will quote you a flat fee to perform your legal work. In any event, we and our clients will sign an Engagement Agreement that identifies each of our rights, duties and obligations, and the agreed upon fees.

Initial meetings for all business-related matters will vary in time depending on the topics discussed. Because we will be giving you legal advice and discussing various strategies, there is a charge for this meeting. Although you have no obligation to hire us to work for you after the first meeting, you will receive advice and information you can use immediately.

Contact us.

Business Succession

It’s taken guts, savvy and sheer determination, but you’ve done it: You’ve made your business a success. You’ve weathered the market swings, outshone the competition, and kept your customers more than satisfied. Your achievements have enabled you to take care of and protect your family. So what happens if you get hit by that proverbial bus?

According to a recent national survey, 25 percent of family business shareholders who are entering their senior years haven’t completed any estate or succession planning other than writing a will. But succession planning for a business owner involves more than just deciding how your assets will be divided after you die.

At its most basic, a succession plan is a documented road map for partners, heirs and successors to follow in the event of your death, disability or retirement. This plan can include a program for distribution of business stock and other assets, debt retirement schedules, life insurance policies, buy-sell agreements between partners and heirs, division of responsibilities among successors, and any other elements that affect your business assets. The plan may also establish the value of your business.

So where do you start? In the succession planning process, you must first clearly establish your goals and objectives, as well as your company’s current human and financial resources. How much control of the business do you want to maintain? Is there someone capable of running the business once you step down? Are there key employees who must be retained? Are there sufficient assets to pay the estate tax, equalize the estate and keep the business? How much money do you need to reach your financial goals? And don’t forget: While clarifying your goals and wishes is important, it’s not enough. You also need to communicate your vision with your family, business partners and key employees.

Contact us.

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Special Needs Planning

Special Needs Planning
How to Create a Lifetime of Care for A Special Needs Child

Parents of children with special needs usually share one overriding concern: what will happen to my child after I’m gone? They also struggle with guilt for what they envision as an eventual destiny for their other children who might assume care of their special needs sibling.

This is what estate planning was made for. You can do something right now to ensure your special needs child has the proper care for the rest of his or her life. As you consult with your attorney to create a special needs trust or other estate planning tools, take into consideration the following:

The amount of financial support your special needs child will require over his or her life. You should start by calculating how much support you are providing now and then think about the support they will need as they reach adulthood and into their senior years. Consider if he or she will be able to provide any of their own support, or will rely on government benefits. Of course, you also need to estimate how much you are able to give.

Governmental benefits protection. If your child already receives government benefits from Medicare or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), your plan will need to take this into consideration and not provide your child with too much income to disqualify them from these benefits. Usually this can be avoided through the creation of a special needs trust.

How your other children fit into your estate plan. A vast majority of parents want to ensure equal treatment for all their children when it comes to an inheritance. Sometimes, with a special needs child, this is not possible if parents have limited financial resources. If this will be true for you, be sure you talk with your other children about your plan and discuss how distribution of other assets might even this up a little for them.

Who will manage your special needs child’s finances. When you create a special needs trust, you will need to name a trustee or trustees to manage the trust assets for the benefit of your child. Choose someone you know who cares about your child and who is willing to assume the responsibilities of caring for him or her.

Beyond just the financial, how do you want your child cared for after you are gone? How can you use your financial resources to ensure that actually happens? Call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk about a Family Wealth Planning Session, where we build provisions into trusts that make it more likely that your child’s care will continue in alignment with your desires, hopes and dreams for their future.

Estate Tax Protection

Estate Tax Protection Planning

You work your entire life to save, and make good financial decisions so that you can have enough when you retire, and then, hopefully, leave something to your loved ones after you die. Along life’s way you pay taxes… income taxes, property taxes, sales tax. At the end of the day, the government wants to tax you one last time, after you die on whatever you have left. This is called the federal estate tax (also known as the inheritance tax or the death tax).

What You Need to Know:

  • The estate tax is separate from the income tax, and is paid on the net value of all your assets, including life insurance, owned at your death in excess of the exempt amount;
  • The estate tax rate is currently 45% (and has been as high as 55% in recent years);
  • For most families, estate taxes are totally voluntary. Only people who fail to plan will end up paying estate taxes.

The first step is becoming informed: is this something that is needed by your family?

If you have a large estate, you will want to consider what strategies are available to minimize your exposure to the federal estate tax. There are many “tools in the toolbox” and once we do an analysis of your assets and values, hopes and dreams, will we then be able to craft an advanced estate plan that is right for your family.

Discover what options are available to you; contact us to schedule your Family Wealth Planning Meeting.

Advanced Estate Planning Strategies

The biggest enemy in tax planning? It’s not the IRS, it’s procrastination! For the best results, start your tax planning sooner rather than later. The earlier the planning starts, the more tax savings can be realized and the easier it is to do so.

Advanced estate tax planning focuses primarily on reducing taxes, specifically the three taxes most commonly imposed on the transfer of assets: the gift tax, the estate tax, and the generation-skipping transfer tax.

Advanced estate planning typically includes strategies such as:

  • Life insurance trusts
  • Qualified personal residence trusts
  • Grantor retained annuity trusts
  • Asset protection trusts
  • Land trusts
  • Dynasty Trusts (Protection against the generation-skipping transfer tax)
  • Family limited partnerships or limited liability companies
  • Asset gifting
  • Reduction of estate taxes

Rather than being taxed heavily after you die, plan ahead so that you can leave the maximum inheritance possible to your loved ones.

Schedule your Family Wealth Planning Meeting to discover what options are available to you or attend one of our Family Wealth Planning seminars that we offer throughout the year.

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Probate

The Most Trusted Probate Services In New York, New York

What is Probate and Why Hire VMGokea Law for Probate Services?

Many people do not know what probate is. In a nutshell, probate is the legal process for making sure that the property of the deceased person is collected, that taxes and debts are paid, and the remaining property is distributed to the beneficiaries as according to the instructions of the will. As you can imagine, probate can involve some challenging matters that require attention to detail. At VMGokea Law, when we meet with clients, they appreciate our dedication to them and the level of knowledge, professionalism and care that we offer.

Hiring An Experienced Probate Services Lawyer Makes A Difference

Here at VMGokea Law, we make sure that every client who comes into our office experiences the same personalized touch. We do not overlook one single aspect of any type estate planning legal services needed, including probate services. If you require the services of a probate lawyer, we hope that you consider VMGokea Law as the probate services lawyer for your legal needs.

Trust & Estate Administration

VMGokea Law, Trust & Estate Administration Attorney

Read what our satisfied clients have to say about our Estate Planning Services.

When my little sister became ill with cancer we were all shocked and pained. Her kids 10 and 12 years old were losing their mother and her husband was in a fear standstill mode. I started to call on friends to get advice.

We were recommended to meet with VMGokea Law for advice. Varvara was great, she came to the hospital to meet my sister four or five times in order to create the perfect plan for my sister’s minor children. After my sister died Varvara and her team at VMGokea Law took care of the probate and administration of my sister’s estate.

Varvara made all of my sister’s wishes come true. Thank you!

Trust Administration Attorney Varvara Gokea Offers Help

If you live in one of the 5 Boroughs and need a Trust and Estate Administration lawyer, make sure that you call Varvara Gokea. Your meeting with Varvara will be a pleasant experience, and you will walk away with the information you need to make the important legal decisions. To schedule an appointment with trust and estate administration lawyer, Varvara Gokea, call our office at (212) 937-8420.

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