The start of 2014 is the perfect time to get your family's affairs in order, and we asked attorney Rebecca Geller of The Geller Law Group to share her expertise about creating a legal will. Besides doing legal work for local families. Rebecca is passionate about working with women-owned businesses and serves as general counsel for many small, local businesses.
1) Why is it so important for families to have a legal will in place?
No parent likes to think about what would happen to their kids if something were to happen to them. We are supermom and dad, we are invincible, right? But that kind of thinking does our kids a disservice. Most parents don’t realize that in failing to make a will or select a guardian, they are actually making a decision. For example, families who don’t have a will are taking an unnecessary risk that their children could end up in the foster system or the court could appoint a guardian who does not share the parents’ values. It’s just like life insurance — plan for the unexpected and you will have the peace of mind of knowing that your children and your spouse will be taken care of if the unimaginable were to happen.
2) What are some things to consider when making a will?
Choosing a guardian or guardians for your children is one of the hardest decisions you will have to make. Sometimes spouses do not agree on who they want to be the guardian — or they worry that they will offend a relative by not selecting them as guardian. We work with many couples who cannot agree and we help them work through this decision. However, this is not the proper time to worry about who will take offense to your choice — your job is select someone who shares your parenting philosophies and will provide the best care for your children.
A guardian doesn’t have to be a relative; many of our clients choose a close friend or godparent, for example. But you should not delay having your will written simply because you can’t decide this issue. Without proper legal documents, your kids could potentially end up in foster care. We can help you and your spouse with this very difficult decision so that you have a plan in place and peace of mind.
3) Approximately how much does it cost to create a legal will?
Each family's situation can vary drastically, so the fees will be different depending on each family's circumstances. For example, do you own a house? More than one real estate property? Do you have life insurance? Do you have children from a previous marriage? Are either of the parents non-U.S. citizens? Do you have a pre-nuptial agreement? Do you own a business? Because each person's documents are personally customized to their specific needs, the fees can vary widely. We offer a free initial phone consult to best determine your family's needs and can quote you a fee based on that conversation.
4) What are the most frequently asked questions from clients about estate planning?
I am asked these 3 questions most frequently:
***“We want to save money. Can I create my own will through a ‘do it yourself’ legal website, such as LegalZoom, rather than hiring a lawyer?” I use this analogy when clients ask me this question: imagine diagnosing and treating a major, life-altering disease through a medical website, without actually visiting your doctor. What would happen? The answer is the same with both situations: you generally end up doing much more harm than good, and ultimately, you could end up paying a lot more money than if you had simply used in-person, professional help from the beginning. In September 2012, Consumer Reports released a scathing report about the inadequacy of legal “do it yourself” websites for writing wills and encouraged consumers to hire attorneys. Many of the online tools create documents that do not actually accomplish what you hope they will accomplish. Some people say “why does it matter, who would ever challenge my will?” You’d be amazed how frequently wills are challenged unexpectedly. If you wouldn’t take such a risk with your own health, why do so when it’s your children’s future at stake?
***“Only rich people have ‘estates.’ We aren’t rich and we have very few assets, so why do we need a will or trust?” For starters, most families have more assets than they realize. Do you have life insurance policies? Do you have retirement accounts? What about real estate? All of these assets are considered part of your “estate.” Don’t you want to ensure that your teenager would use the proceeds from a $250,000 life insurance policy to pay for college, rather than using the funds for designer clothes and a fancy car? These legal documents are essential to make sure that your estate is used in the manner you want. We draft documents to ensure you flexibility and security, so that you know that, if the worst ever happens, that you have adequately provided for your family.
***“I have never worked with an attorney before and am not comfortable with the legal system. How do I know which attorney to use? Choosing an attorney is a very personal decision, and I understand how tough it can be to find the right one. First of all, you need to look for a person who you trust and connect with. Find out it they offer a free consultation, so you can talk to them about your family’s personal and financial information, and use this as an opportunity to see if you feel comfortable with them. Ask the tough questions, and see how they answer, and whether their discussion with you is direct and frank. Also consider how quickly they respond to your emails and phone calls—that could indicate their future responsiveness. Find an attorney who can relate to your life – perhaps a fellow mom!
5) How do families go about updating their will through the years? I recommend that families update their wills when a life event occurs (new baby, someone passes away, etc.); if your financial situation changes (you change jobs, inherit money, etc.); or every 5 years. The tax code and laws change regularly so it is important to keep your documents updated. Most updates are relatively quick, easy, and inexpensive. The Virginia code changed dramatically in 2012 – have you updated your documents since 2012?
6) What are some of the legal services offered by The Geller Law Group?
As the mom of young kids, I understand the craziness of parents’ schedules, and strive to make wills, trusts, and guardianship documents understandable and affordable for everyday families. The Geller Law Group works with families in Virginia, D.C., Maryland and North Carolina to draft wills, trusts, guardianship and power of attorney documents, living wills, and customized legal estate plans. We work with your busy schedule and offer flexible meeting options (like conference calls!) to best suite your family. We also frequently serve as general legal counsel to small businesses, especially woman-owned or family businesses. We help with business formation, client contracts, vendor or contractor agreements, non-compete/confidentiality provisions, trademark applications, and any other legal needs that allow entrepreneurs to take their dream from the business plan and make it a reality.
7) How do Kid Trips readers get started in writing a will?
My firm is happy to offer a free initial phone consult to all families in Virginia, D.C., and Maryland come via Kid Trips, as well as a $250 gift certificate to be used for a will and legal estate plan. Just email Rebecca Geller at Office@TheGellerLawGroup.com, or call my direct line 703.679.7067 to schedule your free initial phone consult.
Rebecca Geller lives in Fairfax Station and is the proud mom of two young boys, with a new baby girl on the way! Her firm of four attorneys works with families and small businesses in Virginia, D.C., Maryland and North Carolina. To learn more, visit www.thegellerlawgroup.com or contact her at RGeller@TheGellerLawGroup.com or 703.679.7067 to schedule your free initial consult.
The information provided by the lawyer and publisher in this blog/website is for educational purposes only, as well as to give the reader general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By reading this blog/website, you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the attorney. The blog/website should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney in your state.
 Only available to VA, DC, and MD residents. One gift certificate per family, new clients only. Gift certificate expires 60 days from date of giveaway
This is a sponsored post by the Geller Law Group. We were compensated by promoting their services on our website. The giveaway is being independently run and monitored by the Geller Law Group. Kid Trips is not responsible for the winners and any correspondence regarding this contest.
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