Who We Are

Introduction

Our Firm Story

FIRM STORY- VM Gokea Law Group PLLC

I started my legal career in corporate America at the AT&T patent litigation department, working as an attorney specializing in intellectual property, but never felt that my work made a difference in people’s lives. I went to law school to better understand my new country and the American way of life and help other people like me. When my mother and brother needed immigration assistance, they received conflicting advice. Thus, I decided to immerse myself in studying immigration law and open my own practice to representing people like their families and me.

After that, when a dear friend lost her battle with cancer, I was shocked to discover that the documents created by an attorney were not protecting her kids or her wishes because the guardianship nominations made in the will, needed the will to be approved by a court and a judge. I realized that regular estate planning practices were not providing a service, but just some forms, and people weren’t being served in the way I thought they should be.

I swore I would never let this happen to another family again if I could help it.

In my friend’s case, a single mother who passed away due to cancer and left behind two minor children ages 13 & 14, some documents were created by an attorney. Still, there were no temporary guardians for her minor children, and the permanent guardians nominated in her Will were non-American citizens living outside the United States. Her Will went through the court process while her kids were in the care of strangers, the New Jersey social services.

The children’s terrifying experience could have been avoided if the attorney generating my friend’s Will had created documents naming temporary guardians for the children here in the U.S. until her relatives arrived overseas to take over the kids.

Furthermore, the non-American guardians had to hire an attorney and go to court while having a very hard time convincing the judge they will raise the kids in the USA. Otherwise, the judge would not grant guardianship of the children to them.

It was a devastating experience for the kids and an expensive undertaking for the guardians. As it turned out, the guardians had to spend more than $25,000 on attorney fees to take guardianship of my friend’s kids.

I thought this was malpractice, but I discovered that this was common practice for the estate planning attorney not being familiar with non-American guardianship.

VMGOKEA Law
VMGOKEA Law

As a single parent, my friend went to see an attorney to do her estate planning before she became ill. Like most estate planning attorneys, her attorney was charging hourly rates, and she was charged for each phone call for each question. When my friend became ill, she didn’t call the attorney to discuss her illness and review her estate plan being worried about receiving more bills in the mail. She thought her estate plan was going to protect her kids and her assets. At no time her attorney contacted her to make sure the family circumstances were unchanged or to review her plan in 10 years.

Also, a Revocable Living Trust paperwork was prepared for her, but no one gave her any guidance or instructions to fund the trust (re-title the assets in the name of the trust) and left the actual work of changing the title to my friend. As a result, the Trust transfers were never completed, and the newly acquired assets were not owned in the name of the Trust.

So even though she spent thousands of dollars to create a plan to protect her kids and her assets, at the time of her death, when her kids needed the most protection, the plan intended to avoid court proceedings did not work. This was what she spent thousands of dollars to avoid. You’d think this was malpractice, but sadly this is common practice.

Her attorney did not keep in touch with her and did not know about her illness; he did not make certain the Trust was funded; he did not plan for temporary guardians until the permanent guardians nominated in the Will arrived from overseas; did not accomplish the purpose of the estate plan to protect the kids and their wellbeing as intended. Her attorney created just some forms that were good enough ten years before her death.

With my friend’s experience in mind, I immersed myself in studying Estate Planning and decided to represent my clients differently. This is what we do differently at VM Gokea Law:

1. We charge a flat fee. Nothing we do is billed on an hourly basis. We’ll always agree to a flat fee in advance of the engagement, so you’ll never have any surprises about what something will cost you. You can call us and ask your questions without receiving a bill in the mail. We know that you’ll need to communicate with us during your lifetime about changes to your plan, changes to your life and assets, and we will communicate with you regularly about changes in the law. You can expect to hear from us every week in our email newsletter and our monthly newsletter by mail.

2. We do not leave the ownership of your assets to chance. We have an entire team to work with you to ensure your assets are properly titled in the name of the Trust. We take responsibility for supervising the funding. We also have an established process to ensure that your assets remain titled correctly and newly acquired assets are titled properly. With the client’s assistance, we utilize a sophisticated software program that allows us to fund your living trust, track the funding process to completion, and verify that it is done.

3. We keep in touch and emphasize ongoing maintenance and education that supports your estate plan. Since everything constantly changes, you cannot expect a plan to accomplish what it was intended to accomplish if it is never updated. The costs of failing to update are far greater than the costs of keeping plans current. We place great emphasis on establishing a structured and systematized process to create and maintain your estate plan. These systems provide you with a process to manage the inevitable changes in the law, your family, and your finances. We don’t look at a plan as something you do once and then never look at it again. We look at a plan, and the signing of your plan documents, as the beginning of a lifetime relationship with our law firm.

That’s really what makes us different. We make sure your plan will work when it is most needed.

How We Are Different

Explaining to you how we’re different requires explaining what the “traditional” experience with a lawyer is like. If you’ve worked with a lawyer to prepare estate planning documents for you in the past, this will sound familiar.

During the traditional experience, you’ll go in and meet with a lawyer who will often make things seem very complicated and confusing. You’ll have a good idea that the lawyer is smart and seems to know what they are doing, so you’ll nod and answer questions as if you understand everything. Because you want to do the right thing for your family, you’ll have the lawyer prepare documents for you, and you’ll sign the documents, feeling relieved that you’ve got that taken care of.

You’ll take your fancy planning binder home, stick it on a shelf or in a drawer, mark estate planning off on your checklist as DONE, and never think about it again.

You might remember your lawyer said something about moving your bank accounts into the trust. So you’ll go to the bank, forget what you were supposed to do, call your lawyer’s office, get a voicemail, have to leave the bank and wait for a call back (which takes several hours at least and sometimes days) and by that time, you’ll have gotten busy with other things and never get around to moving that bank account.

A few weeks later, you’ll get a bill in the mail for $67.50 for 15 minutes of your lawyer’s time for answering a couple of questions. You’ll make a mental note– don’t call lawyer ever again.

Several years later, you’ll refinance your house or sell it and buy a new one and forget that you were supposed to let your lawyer know or make sure you kept the title in the name of the trust.

Your children will get older, making your guardianship choices outdated, but you don’t want to call your lawyer because you know you’ll get a bill in the mail two weeks later.

You’ll hear something about a change in the tax law, but you figure you’d surely get a letter in the mail from your lawyer if it were something that affected you, so you don’t worry about it. And, you’d have to dig through boxes to find your trust documents so you could remember your lawyer’s name and find her contact information. Who has time for that?

It’s not until you become incapacitated or die and your family finds the binder you stuck up on a shelf several years before and never looked at again that they’ll realize your plan is so outdated that it has nothing to do with your life, your assets and the law.

Your family is at a loss. They don’t know where to turn or what to do, so they contact the same lawyer you used to prepare the documents, who is as happy as possible to probate your assets, which never made it into the trust.

VMGOKEA Law
VMGOKEA Law

How do I know all this?

Because not too long ago, it happened to my family, and I swore it would never happen to my clients when I created my firm. And since then, I have seen countless clients come in to see me who have had this same experience.

Unfortunately, what I discovered is the estate planning industry was not designed to serve growing families who experience lots of change on their way to success. It was designed to serve 70 and 80-year-olds who were preparing for death.

Our Firm Helps You Prepare for Life

What makes our firm different is that we were built with the needs of growing families in mind. We understand you are BUSY. You are growing, planning for a life of prosperity and value ease, convenience and efficiency. You want to know you’ve made the best decisions for your family and that your plan will work when your loved ones need it most. You want to make sure your children would be taken care of in the best way possible and will be prepared to receive your wealth if anything happens to you.

That is our focus as well. We’ve developed unique systems to give you the same access to a personal family lawyer as was previously only available to the likes of Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Sam Walton so you can have the guidance you need to build and maintain a life of prosperity and wealth.
We encourage communication with our clients. We’ve thrown out the time clocks, so you never have to be afraid to call with a quick question. Everything we do is billed on a flat-fee basis, agreed to in advance, so there are never any surprises.

We have a whole team to serve you. When you call our office to ask your quick question, you won’t have to wait hours or days for a phone call back. You’ll get your question answered right away. And, if you need to schedule a more in-depth legal or strategic call with your personal lawyer, a call will be scheduled when you’re both available and ready for the call so we can make the very best use of your time and not waste your time by leaving voicemail after voicemail back and forth.

We ensure your planning's most important details are followed through on, and your plan continues to work throughout your lifetime.

We have a “funding coordinator” to ensure your assets are protected throughout your lifetime, and none of your assets will end up going through a long, expensive court process or being lost to the state because they were missed after your death.

We’ve created unique membership programs to keep your plan up to date year in and year out, as well as give you access to our Trusted Team of Legal Experts for guidance on ANY legal or financial matters. One day you will need a lawyer. I don’t know why and I don’t know when, but when you do, you will be grateful you can call on us, and we’ll be here to advise you or get you out of a jam.

Lastly, we believe your financial wealth is only a small part of your overall “Family Wealth,” which is made up of your far more valuable, Intellectual, Spiritual, and Human assets – who you are and what’s important to you.

Most estate plans are only able to transfer your financial wealth onto the next generation. The intangible nature of your much greater wealth has made it difficult to capture, and it is most often lost when someone passes. How much do you know about your grandparent's values? Their most prized personal possessions? How did they feel about you? What had they learned during their lifetime?

If you are like most people, you know very little. But, the wealthiest families capture these assets and pass them along right with their financial wealth. And that’s part of the reason the rich keep getting richer.

We’ve developed a tool that allows us to pass on your whole family wealth, including your Intellectual, Spiritual, and Human assets. I can’t go into all of the details here, but we’ll talk about it when you come to meet with your Personal Family Lawyer.

We look forward to seeing you and caring for your family soon!

Varvara M. Gokea

VMGOKEA Law
VMGOKEA Law

PS – if you think this all sounds expensive, well, you are right, and you’re wrong. If you qualify to meet with a Personal Family Lawyer®, I can guarantee you that planning is substantially less costly than it would be for your family if you died with a plan that didn’t work or if you didn’t have a plan in place at all. And, I’ve never had a single family who believed in this kind of planning and wanted to put it in place for their loved ones to leave my office because they couldn’t afford it. We’ve made creative financing available to our clients because we know that this planning is the foundation for a life of success!

About Varvara M. Gokea

ATTORNEY
After assisting with lengthy probate and the guardianship issues following the untimely death due to cancer of a dear friend, Varvara M. Gokea decided to continue helping families nominate guardianships for their minor children and create effective estate plans designed to reduce taxes while minimizing interference from the courts when families transfer assets to their loved ones.

After fifteen years representing clients in immigration matters, Ms. Gokea added Estate Planning to her practice to provide families the peace of mind that comes from having an estate plan in place.

Today, the firm provides families with assistance in Estate Planning, Elder Law, Probate, and Estates' Administration. Recently, VM Gokea Law Group added Business Planning to its portfolio of client services.

VMGOKEA Law

INVOLVEMENT

Ms. Gokea has actively participated in numerous community and civic organizations and volunteered for the public benefit on a pro bono basis. She volunteered for the New York City Bar in representing abused mothers, and presently, she volunteers for New York Law School Safe Passage Project, representing children in special juvenile proceedings. While her children were growing up and attended The Greek Cathedral School, Ms. Gokea was the PA President and member of the Board of Trustees for the Cathedral Education. She is an active member of the Hellenic American Professional Women helping young professionals launch their careers as she serves on the Board of Directors of Energize Laboratories, a tech company financed by Columbia University.

EDUCATION

Ms. Gokea received her Masters's Degree in Electro-Mechanical Engineering from the Bucharest Institute of Technology in Romania and her Juris Doctorate from Widener University School of Law in Delaware and New York Law School in New York City.

Ms. Gokea is admitted to practice in New York and the New Jersey States, the Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, and The United States Supreme Court.

Ms. Gokea is a member of the New York State Bar Association, Elder Law; the New York City Bar Association, Estate Planning Mentoring Circles; American Immigration Lawyers Association; as well as the New Jersey Bar Associations.

PERSONAL

Varvara and her husband, George Gokea, are married for 25 years and have two sons, Rienzi (Enzi) Patrick Gokea (attending Columbia University in the City of New York – Mechanical Engineering) and Siegfried (Ziggy) Theodore Gokea (attending New York University- Stern Business School).

Our Team

VARVARA M. GOKEA

Varvara M Gokea

Attorney

After assisting with lengthy probate and the guardianship issues following the untimely death due to cancer of a dear friend, Varvara M. Gokea decided to continue helping families nominate guardianships for their minor children and create effective estate plans designed to reduce taxes while minimizing interference from the Courts when families transfer assets to their loved ones.

After fifteen years representing clients in immigration matters, Ms. Gokea added Estate Planning to her practice to provide families the peace of mind that comes from having an estate plan in place.

Today, the firm provides families with assistance in Estate Planning, Elder Law, Probate, and Estates' Administration. Recently, VM Gokea Law Group added Business Planning to its portfolio of client services.
Read More…

RIENZI PATRICK GOKEA

Rienzi Patrick Gokea

Community Relations Coordinator

As Community Relations Coordinator for VM Gokea Law, Rienzi uses innovative methods to communicate with the public, our professional affiliates, and most importantly, our clients. Since his sophomore year at Columbia University, Rienzi has been involved in client relations and marketing, majors in Mechanical Engineering and Computer Science. Also, Rienzi is responsible for our automation and electronic communications. He has pursued several entrepreneurial ventures being the CEO of Energize Laboratories, learning that marketing begins with a solid relationship with your clients.

Rienzi was born, bred, and educated in New York City and a member of the NCAA Champions – Columbia Fencing Team. He’s a saber fencer since 12 years old, Nationally ranked, and proudly has represented the United States at International Fencing World Cups.

LANEY LYONS-RICHARDSON

Laney Lyons-Richardson

Plan Drafting Coordinator

Laney has over 15 years of experience in the estate planning industry. After managing an estate planning law firm for 12 years, she continued to train law firm teams across the country in estate planning processes, hiring, and team building. Also, she co-authored Don’t Be a Yes Chick and is the co-founder of The Ultimate Smart Solution, LLC, teaching team members how to support an entrepreneur. She now coordinates and manages the plan drafting process for the firm.

BARI VALLAS

Bari Vallas

Trust Funding Coordinator

Since 2005 (and after 20 years as a practicing attorney and civil litigator), Bari has been developing trust funding expertise by working with estate planning attorneys and their clients across the United States. Now, as Funding Coordinator for the firm, Bari helps review and organize clients’ asset information. She works closely with Marc and his clients to ensure that their trusts are properly funded so their estate plans will work as intended when the time comes.

Happy Clients

“Thank you, Varvara, for opening our eyes. We did not name guardians for our children until Varvara Gokea began the conversation. We were afraid to think about what could happen to our children if something would happen to us. Doing our Estate Planning and naming Temporary Guardians was the logical step when having children, a home, and most of the family far away from us. I feel relieved like some heavy burden from my sub-conscience has been removed.”

Stav Zako, Queens, New York

“When my little sister became ill with cancer, we were all shocked and hurt. 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 VM Gokea Law for advice. Varvara was great. She came to the hospital to meet my sister four or five times to create the perfect plan for my sister’s minor children. After my sister died, Varvara and her team at VM Gokea Law took care of my sister’s estate probate and administration.
Varvara made all my sister's wishes come true. Thanks!”

Beatriz Lopez, Woodside, New York

VMGOKEA Law