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JoEllen Doebbert, Attorney at Law: Preserving one’s true legacy

Law firm believes stories, values and life lessons are as important as money and property


These are questions you might ponder at the Law and Legacy Center of Attorney JoEllen Doebbert.  While most estate planning attorneys focus only on a client’s wealth and assets, Doebbert offers clients the opportunity to explore the many facets of their legacy.  People are more than their property, and JoEllen carries this philosophy into her estate planning practice in an approach she calls “legacy planning.”

“Your legacy is more than the money and property you want to leave behind,” said Doebbert, who owns and operates a law office in Alexandria. “It is also your stories, your values and your life lessons that have been learned through a well-lived life. It is the stories and experiences that have made you who you are.”

Through a conversation between JoEllen and the client, those legacies are identified. She then works to help her clients preserve these legacies during the estate planning process.

“A conversation about one’s legacy helps the client identify important values and life lessons which he or she may wish to pass on to their family or community,” she said, “and the conversation helps me, as their attorney, gain insight into what is important to the client. This allows me to prepare a will or trust unique to that client.”

JoEllen uses a “legacy circle” to help explain the four facets of legacy:  financial wealth, personal treasures, final instructions and life lessons.  Most people expect their financial wealth and final instructions to be addressed in their estate planning.  JoEllen offers more than that:  the opportunity to express, and then preserve, their life lessons and stories for their loved ones.  Long after they are gone, their loved ones will be able to hear the stories that made them who they are, what experiences shaped their character.

It is this personalized and balanced approach to estate and legacy planning that makes her law office unique.

“We are a different kind of law firm,” said Doebbert. “You can have a will prepared at any law firm in town, but at our firm you will have the satisfaction of knowing that your personal legacy will be conveyed at the appropriate time to your loved ones.”

That legacy is conveyed not only through the client’s will or trust documents, but also through their voice. Each legacy conversation is recorded on a CD so it can be preserved for loved ones in current and future generations.

“It is our stories and life experiences that define us and make us who we are.  When these are captured on a CD – in our own voice – it is truly a treasure for our loved ones,” said Doebbert.

The legacy conversation can be therapeutic for the client, said Doebbert.

“It is an opportunity to reflect on one’s life,” she said. “And it also gives the client a chance to talk about unfinished business.

They can talk about what they would like to accomplish in their life going forward or to be carried on once they’re gone.”

The personal connection that forms as a result of these legacy conversations has been a pleasant surprise for JoEllen.

“As professionals, most attorneys  — and I was this way, too — feel like you need to have some distance from the client in the professional relationship.  But the sharing of stories and life experiences has changed that. It is not a one-way street.  In order for my clients to feel comfortable telling me their stories, I also share some of my life experiences.  This has really enriched my life as an attorney. It makes my job more interesting and rewarding. When I hear the stories of my clients, there is a sharing and openness that wasn’t there before.”

Legacy planning is for persons of all ages.

“Parents of young children use this process to share values and instructions with their children’s proposed guardians should they die while their children are young. It is very meaningful to parents to know that their values will be passed on to their children,” said Doebbert. “I have also had clients return to record further conversations geared toward a particular child or as a tribute to someone who has died.  Older clients may wish to impart wisdom of a well-lived life to their grandchildren.”

The process also works very well for business owners.

“It gives business owners a way to reflect on how the business has evolved, their dreams for the business, its future, and preparing a business succession plan,” she said.

Legacy conversations are not confined to estate planning. “Adult children sometimes arrange for their parents to record a conversation about their life experiences, said Doebbert.  “Adult children often express their hope that their parents would do something like this – so that they will always have the opportunity to hear their parent’s voice – or to hear ‘that story’ one more time.”


“How long would it take your loved ones to locate your important financial and legal documents? A day?  Weeks?  Minutes? A lot of people need assistance getting their affairs in order,” she said. “I have established a system to get the information they need and put it in a format that is accessible to one’s loved ones when it is needed most.”

In addition, Doebbert offers seminars at her office relating to estate and legacy planning, probate, wills, trusts and more.

If you would like to learn more about  estate planning and the other unique services provided by JoEllen Doebbert, contact the firm at 320-763-7838. The office is located at 121 5th Avenue West in downtown Alexandria. In addition to the firm’s Alexandria location, JoEllen also offers appointments at her office in Glenwood at Glenfield Place. JoEllen is married to Belvin Doebbert, an attorney in Glenwood, and they have two teenage sons, Connor and Gavin.

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