Updated: Oct 3, 2021
Thank you for visiting Guiga Law! I'm very excited to be able to offer thorough, affordable, and unique estate planning services for all families in New York State.
Many people I know, including close family members and friends, have had negative experiences with death and probate. Given the traditional approach to estate planning that often doesn't work for families, I immediately saw this as the perfect area of law to help people and really make a difference in their lives. Early in my legal education, I thought that most of the negative experiences must have just been because the lawyers in my small town didn’t specialize in estate planning. They just took any client who walked through the door, no matter what they were there for. However, what I found when I interviewed with many estate planning firms in larger cities, was that the experience with general practitioners in my small town was no different than these high-priced boutique firms in NYC. I didn’t see a way to revolutionize estate planning as a new attorney, so I took the expected career path and went to work for a big corporation--then eventually left the law altogether to teach 7th and 8th grade social studies at a public middle school in Brooklyn. Now that I’m launching my own firm, I’ve developed a better way to do estate planning for my clients.
First of all, most attorneys bill for estate planning on an hourly basis—usually to the tune of about $200-400 per hour. As you can imagine, most people looking for estate plans or who have already paid for estate plans, don’t call their attorneys with questions because they’re afraid they’ll get a surprise bill in the mail. Even more annoying is the fact that in many cases, the documents don’t actually do what clients need them to do. When you work with a lawyer practicing under the traditional, transactional model, what will probably happen is you’ll get charged hourly to create an estate plan, your lawyer will prepare some documents for you, you’ll sign those documents (most often not having a clear sense of what you’re signing) you’ll take those documents home, stick them on a shelf or in a drawer and never look at them again. That, unfortunately, is the traditional estate planning experience. And what I’ve come to learn is that this is why many estate plans fail to accurately meet a person's needs and desires. My dad, for example, worked with an attorney to create an estate plan that, at the time, would have left his family home—property that has been in his family for generations—to his then-wife. A few years later he divorced and never updated his estate place, all because he didn’t want to pay extra attorney fees to question his lawyer about his plan. He also was worried that he would have to pay for the extra time that it would have taken to explain what he really wanted and make sure that the lawyer understood.
A while back, I heard a tragic story of two children who ended up in child protective services custody because their mother had a stroke and died while at the gym and their father was on a business trip overseas. The rest of their family was out of state and took time to locate. This family had wills in place, but their attorney ONLY added their guardianship nominations into their wills. There were no plans in place for short-term guardians to care for the children until the long-term guardians could be located. And because the guardian nomination was only included in the will and not in a separate document, it would only take effect if they both died…not if they became incapacitated or if one passed and the other couldn’t be reached quickly. When I first heard this story I thought for sure their lawyer must’ve made a mistake, but I’ve talked to lots of other families who have carefully planned to name guardians for their children and learned that this is common practice. It shouldn’t be the job of the clients to think of every possible scenario and make their wishes clear—this is something that every attorney should know that their clients wouldn’t want to happen—yet this is still the way guardianship is handled in most law practices, but not at Guiga Law.
So why am I starting a law practice now?
My husband unfortunately lost his last two living grandparents this year. My father-in-law, an only child, felt so much internal conflict in making the decision to take his father off life support until he later found a living will that clearly stated he didn’t want to be kept alive this way. Then my mother-in-law came to me frantically trying to understand her mother’s trust document…that she paid $7k for and didn’t know what it said or how it would work. What I realized was that simple communication and an ongoing relationship with their attorneys could have prevented all of these problems. My father-in-law didn’t need to experience these guilty feelings about removing his dad from life support…and my mother-in-law should’ve known EXACTLY what to do with an estate plan that her mother paid $7k for. Or she should’ve at least felt perfectly comfortable calling the attorney to ask. That’s why I decided to open a law office dedicated to doing things differently. A law firm dedicated to building real relationships with my clients and educating them about what their plan ACTUALLY does and HOW to make it work.
So, here are some of the things I do differently based on my experience with the traditional model of estate planning.
First of all – nothing we do is billed on an hourly basis. Everything we do is billed flat fee, agreed to in advance, so there are no surprises. You’ll know exactly what it will cost to work with us, after we’ve gotten clear about what you want, and you’ll even be able to choose your own fee. Then, after the initial planning process, we have options so that you can ensure your plan stays up to date throughout your life, and again you’ll know exactly what that costs and choose your own fee there.
Second – we actually have the systems in place to make sure your estate plans will work for you throughout your whole life. We will follow up with you every three years and do a free review of your existing plan. And we even have affordable membership programs where we will review your plan annually and make any changes you need based on what’s happening in your life at no extra cost to you. Also, because everything we do is on a flat fee agreed to in advance…if you do ever have a question about your plan -- which you probably won’t because we’re going to make sure you understand everything completely before you sign -- but if you do have questions or something in your life changes and you don’t know if your plan needs to be updated, you can call without fear of ever getting a surprise bill from me in the mail. Click here to learn more about our Estate Planning Services.
Third – we make taking care of your children a priority. We have a program in place called the Kids Protection Plan that does everything possible to ensure your children never end up in child protective services custody should something happen to you. We’ll of course take care of the long-term guardian nominations, but we go several additional steps beyond that because if you’re anything like me, the thought of your children going to CPS for any amount of time would keep you awake at night. We’ll also draft short-term guardian nominations, kind of like first responders who will quickly be able to get to your children and keep them if you are unreachable. We’ll draft instructions for everyone involved and make sure they know exactly what to do and have legal documentation to watch over your children when you cannot. We even create ID cards to keep in your wallet so if you’re ever in an accident or a medical emergency, first responders will even know what to do and who to contact. We’ll also dig in deep about your parenting values to make sure those values get passed along to your children and they are raised how you want if you can’t be there to do it yourself. Click here to learn more about our Child Protection Planning Services.
These are just a few of the things that make our firm different. We’re the best fit for people who don’t just want to leave their family a set of documents that may or may not work, but instead want to use the estate planning process to pass on a legacy of love and care and ease. And keep their family out of court and out of conflict. Click here to learn more about the Guiga Law Difference.
On a personal note, I’m a mom and a wife, and what my family brings to this experience for me is the awareness that planning is something that you do for the people you love the most. The truth is this: you won’t be the one to benefit from the plan we are going to design for you -- the people who will benefit are the people you love the most who will be dealing with things after you’re gone. It is my goal to make sure that your plans are carried out as you desire, and that your family avoids conflicts, confusion, and unnecessary added emotional stress.
If this all sounds like what you want from an estate planning attorney, please contact us today. You can also go ahead and schedule a planning session or a completely free 15-minute phone consultation so I can tell you more about myself and you can tell me what it is that you are hoping to get out of this experience.