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The estate planning process

Our goal is 100% client satisfaction and peace of mind.  To achieve this goal, we have made the estate plan process as simple and efficient as possible for you. 


We start by understanding as much as possible about your needs, goals, and current state of planning. This includes getting to know you, reviewing your relevant financial information and existing strategies, and understanding your priorities. 


Because we work on a fixed fee and retainer model, we seek open communication with you. We don’t charge our clients for calls or emails because the more we understand about you and your needs, the more likely we are to develop legal strategies that accomplish your objectives.


From the initial consultation to the signing meeting, it typically takes about 2-4 weeks to complete a comprehensive living trust-based estate plan package for an individual or couple.  A will-based estate plan package is often ready in about 2 weeks.  Rush services are available if you need a simple estate plan or particular document in a day or two.   

Initial Consultation

Our planning process starts with a complimentary initial consultation meeting to discuss your specific goals and needs.  During our meeting, we will answer your questions and outline various estate planning options to achieve your goals.  If, after our meeting, we agree to proceed with the preparation of an estate plan, we sign an engagement agreement and a deposit equal to one-half of the agreed-upon flat-fee is paid. 

The cost to prepare your estate plan will depend on the complexity and elements of your unique plan.  We do not provide "one-size-fits-all" legal services.  Therefore, the cost to prepare your plan will be a flat-fee based on the complexity of your particular plan.  We specialize in preparing estate plans tailored to your family needs and budget.    

Estate Plan Design

We then undertake an extensive review of your existing situation and compare that to the goals you’ve established. We may need to go back and forth with you a few times for clarity or to get additional information.


This is also a great time to bring your CPA and other advisors into the conversation so everyone is on the same page. During this phase of planning we often uncover strategic legal and tax opportunities that your tax advisor should be aware of, and get him or her on board with any changes to your accounting or tax prep. We also often discover more effective ways for you to leverage your existing life insurance or address your retirement holdings.


We don’t do accounting, we don’t sell insurance, and we don’t give financial advice, so we don’t compete with any of your other advisors. But through our strategic legal review and analysis we often find opportunities for you to improve your legal protection and your tax and financial efficiency.

Estate Plan Signing

The last step is to sign your documents.  For the signing meeting, you bring a valid, current photo identification card such as a driver’s license or passport as proof of your identity.   We review and sign your document and have them witnessed or notarized.   

Your estate plan includes everything you need to protect yourself and your family in case of an unexpected event, including a durable power of attorney, advance healthcare directive, guardianship nomination, and much more.  You will receive your completed estate plan organized in an attractive customized binder, a flash drive containing a PDF all your signed documents, and helpful instructions and tips.


Estate Plan Maintenance

Maintaining your estate plan is critical so we give all our clients a 3-Point Maintenance Program


First, we provide free annual estate plan reviews for our clients.  This is a great way to make sure your plan accurately reflects your current needs and desires. 


Second, we provide free revisions to your estate plan for one year after your plan is drafted.  Need to add a beneficiary or change an executor?  Free revisions will help ensure that your new estate plan accurately reflects your wishes even if there's a sudden change in circumstances shortly after it's prepared. 


Third, our clients may call us anytime at no charge with questions about their estate plan.  

Estate plan maintenance is another way that the Law Office of Joseph M. Barton provides its clients with lasting peace of mind! 

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