Articles By Isabell Mueller

Everything You Need to Know about Estate Planning for Your Second Marriage

Before you say “I do” a second time around, you need to be prepared. Estate planning for your second marriage is imperative. And, as your Estate Attorney, I will help you and your future spouse take care of the complicated stuff so you can focus on the fun part of getting remarried.


Wisconsin is a Marital Property State

This is one of the first things you and your future spouse should know. Why? Your marriage will affect the ownership of all of your assets, regardless of how the asset is titled, which means: change in ownership will affect the division of your assets in the event of a divorce and/or upon your death.

In many instances, failing to revise your estate plan will result in a distribution that is substantially different from what you intended. So, you need to revise or prepare a well-documented estate plan. To learn more about how you and your new spouse can be protected, click below to connect.



Finances Are Often More Complex

You and your future spouse’s respective financial situations are probably a little more complex than when you first married. Why? It’s possible you have more assets or income. Or, one or both of you may have children from previous relationships. In either of these cases, it may be in both parties’ interest to execute a prenuptial agreement.

Here are the most significant issues to address when determining whether or not a prenuptial agreement is needed…


If it is in your best interest to sign a prenuptial agreement, the rest of your estate planning documents (Wills, Revocable Trusts, Powers of Attorney, etc.) should be updated. Your estate plan must reflect both of your decisions and your new marriage.

Estate Planning for Your Second Marriage is Imperative – Let’s Get You Prepared.

If love is in the air a second time around, and you’re ready to get remarried, reach out. I have more than 25-years of experience helping couples manage the legal complications of getting married a second time. Again, this should be a celebratory time. Estate planning for your second marriage will keep protected down the road.

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Wisconsin’s Marital Property Law


Wisconsin’s marital property law became effective on January 1, 1986. The law was enacted to formally recognize that both spouses contribute to a marriage even though only one may earn an income. Under the marital property law, whatever the couple acquires during the marriage belongs to them equally, regardless of whose name is on the title. This applies not only to earned income, but also unearned income such as interest and dividends. For example, if one spouse has a 401(k), and over time the account’s value grows as a result of additional contributions, as well as interest and dividends generated by the securities held in the account, the other spouse has an equal marital interest in the account even though it is actually titled only in the contributing spouse’s name. It is important to note, however, that marital property law applies to a couple’s debt and liabilities in the same manner as it does their property.

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How do your assets get to your loved ones following your death?

Everyone wants to take care of their loved ones to the greatest extent possible in the event of their own death. However, ensuring that your estate goes to your beneficiaries in the manner you intended is not as simple as it may seem. This process is known as “estate planning.” There are a number of strategies and tools in the estate planning process and no “one size fits all” approach. The following is a brief discussion of the various means by which the individual assets which make up your estate may transfer to your beneficiaries.

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Estate Planning: Where do I begin?

Whatever the size of your estate, it is important to plan. Without a proper estate plan, the legal and financial issues raised by your death, or your incapacity, will be more difficult and expensive for your loved ones. Unfortunately, most of us procrastinate because thinking about, and then actively planning for, death or disability is an unpleasant prospect. It is far easier to focus on the more immediate concerns in our lives. However, while estate planning may seem like a daunting task, it need not be. As with almost everything else, getting started is the hardest part.

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Estate Planning for Unmarried Couples

There are many unique issues for unmarried couples to consider in the estate planning process. Because there is no “legal” relationship between the parties, it is critically important that these issues be addressed before problems arise. If left too late, you run the risk that your significant other may have no rights and could end up being entirely removed from your life, both personally and financially. So what documents should you put in place?

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Estate Plans for Single Individuals

estate planning for single people

As a Single Person, Do I Really Need an Estate Plan? The Answer: Yes.

One of the biggest misconceptions about estate planning is that it is only important for those who are married. Estate Plans for singles ensures that your assets and responsibilities are properly assigned to the right people. In fact, while estate planning might be a little more complex for single individuals, it is just as crucial.

Continue reading to learn why. 

why singles need to have an estate plan

What Happens Without an Estate Plan or Will?

By law, the individual’s parents are the next-of-kin and will be responsible to carry out their child’s legacy wishes and distribution of assets. Unfortunately, their parents may not be in a position to take on that additional responsibility. Maybe the individual would have preferred someone closer in age, such as a sibling. Unfortunately, neither the family nor the Court would have any way of knowing this without a documented estate plan or will.

Is there a “Default” Plan for Singles?

Yes. The State of Wisconsin has a “default” plan for dealing with a single person’s incapacity or death. However, it is even less likely to resemble their desired outcome than with married individuals. This is why, in part, it is even more important for singles to execute financial and health care powers of attorney than it is for married individuals.

Need Help Creating Your Estate Plan? guardianship-milwaukee

Estate Plans for Singles - It is more important for singles than for married individuals

Control Your Assets – IRA’s, Life Insurance, Real Estate & Bank Accounts

With an Estate Plan, assets that name a specific beneficiary, such IRA’s or life insurance will be distributed to the chosen person(s) named. Nevertheless, assets that do not have beneficiary designations, such as real estate, bank or brokerage accounts, will go through the probate process and Wisconsin law will control those benefits.

What if I have Children?

If the deceased had children, the assets will go to the children, who will then receive their inheritance outright or when they reach age 18. If the deceased did not have children, his or her parents will be the beneficiaries.Estate Plans for Singles - Estate Planning for Single People

What Happens Without a Named Beneficiary?

If the parents are also deceased, then siblings, or even nieces and nephews, will receive the estate, which may not be what was intended. If any of these individuals receive government benefits, this unplanned inheritance will almost certainly interfere with those benefits. This is another reason estate planning for singles is so important.

What Can I Do to Take Back Control?

The only way for a single individual to truly control that outcome is to put a proper estate plan in place.

Issues can arise when a single individual passes away without an estate plan in place. Take the stress away from the unknown and plan your next steps for a will and estate plan. If you’d like to learn more details about taking these next steps, visit our FAQ Page by clicking here.


Need Help Creating Your Estate Plan? We Can Contact You!


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“More than 50 Percent of Adults Do Not have a Will,”

according to Chas Rampenthal, general counsel of LegalZoom.

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Estate Planning for Parents of Young Children

Most of us never think about dying. But sadly, not all parents live long enough to see their children grow up. Sometimes the unthinkable occurs. If you pass away, what will happen to your children? Who will raise them? If one parent dies, the surviving parent will usually have custody of the minor children as the natural guardian. However, if both parents pass away, then a Court will decide who will become guardian. In its assessment, the Court will look first to the Last Will and Testament of the deceased parent(s), the document in which parents name their choice for guardian. It is important to understand, however, that although the parents have nominated the guardian in the Will, only a Court can actually appoint a guardian. The Court usually confirms the nomination of the parents with the understanding that this decision was not made lightly by the parents. There are some instances, however, when the Court, based on additional information and recommendations by family and professionals, appoints someone other than the parents’ first choice. For this reason it is important to nominate at least one alternate choice for guardian in the Will.

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Authorization for Final Disposition

The Authorization for Final Disposition is a document which allows you to designate a representative who will have the legal authority to make decisions regarding your funeral arrangements and the disposition of your body. This document is still fairly new in the State of Wisconsin. Absent a signed Authorization, Wisconsin law designates who has such authority. The law establishes the following order of priority: 1) surviving spouse or domestic partner; 2) surviving child or children; 3) surviving parent or parents; 4) surviving sibling or siblings; 5) lineal descendants in the priority order spelled out in the Wisconsin Statutes; 6) the guardian at the time of death; and 7) any other person willing to control the funeral and final disposition who attests in writing that they have made a good faith effort and could not locate any of the persons in the above priority list.

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Durable Powers of Attorney

The first two building blocks of a good estate plan are the General Durable Power of Attorney, also referred to as a financial power of attorney, and the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. Every adult should have both. As an adult, you are the only one who can make decisions with regard to your own finances and health care. There are only two means by which someone else could obtain the authority to make those decisions for you. The first is through the use of the two powers of attorney. With these documents, you yourself appoint “agents,” one for your finances and one for your health care. These individuals then have the legal authority to act on your behalf in the event of your incapacity. Having both of these documents is just as important if you are married as it is if you are single. In the State of Wisconsin, although your spouse may retain access to many of your jointly titled assets, he or she does not have the legal right to make decisions for you, regardless how long you have been married.

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Estate Planning FAQs

1. What is estate planning?

Estate planning is a process. It involves people—your family, other individuals and, in many cases, charitable organizations of your choice. It also involves your assets (your property) and the various forms of ownership and title that those assets may take. And it addresses your future needs in case you ever become unable to care for yourself.

Through estate planning, you can determine:

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The Benefits of Creating a Trust to Hold a Child’s Inheritance

Providing for children in the event parents die prematurely takes more than choosing a guardian to raise them. Parents must also consider what will happen to any money or property their children will inherit. Children under the age of eighteen cannot directly inherit more than a small amount of money. With assets and life insurance, most parents will leave their children a great deal more than that. If the parents have made no provisions, a guardian will be appointed to manage the assets only until the child turns eighteen, at which point all the remaining assets are turned over the child. Creating a trust to hold the inheritance instead allows parents significantly more control over how the inheritance is spent for their children.

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Living Will vs. Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care

In the State of Wisconsin there are two separate health care advance directives:  the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and the Declaration to Physicians (commonly called the Living Will). As advance directives, both are designed to provide direction regarding your health care and treatment in the event that you are no longer able to make your wishes known. Beyond that, however, the two are very different documents.

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Memorandum of Tangible Personal Property

One of the many things that you will need to consider when preparing your estate plan is how you would like your personal effects to be distributed. Almost everyone has an item of special meaning that they would like distributed to a certain person. Traditionally, these requests were included in the Last Will and Testament or the revocable trust documents. The disadvantage to this method was that whenever you wanted to make a change, whether it be changing the item or the recipient, or adding additional items, you had to sign a codicil to your Will or an amendment to your revocable trust. This would incur additional costs because the Codicil or the amendment had to be executed with the same formalities as the Will or revocable trust, which usually meant a trip to the attorney’s office.

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How to Protect Your Disabled Loved One with a Special Needs Trust

Have you been told that you cannot leave money to a disabled son, daughter, or grandchild? If they receive certain Government benefits, it’s true. Fortunately, there is a solution to this problem. Read on to understand how a Special Needs Trust is in your loved one’s best interest. Learn how to plan carefully so you’re not jeopardizing your loved one’s ability to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid benefits.


What Government Benefits Have Asset Restrictions?

Benefits that have asset restrictions include Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicaid, and subsidized housing. Unfortunately, if the individual has more than the maximum amount, his or her benefits will be interrupted. If you want to leave money upon your death or a gift during your lifetime to someone with a physical or mental disability, or a person who is chronically ill, you must know your legal rights and plan carefully. How have I been able to protect my clients? By helping them set up a Special Needs Trust as part of their estate plan.

What is a Special Needs Trust?

You can leave money to your loved one without interfering with the public benefits by setting up a Special Needs Trust (also referred to as a Supplemental Needs Trust). This type of trust enables a person with a disability or chronic illness to have an unlimited amount of assets held for his or her benefit. That being said, instead of leaving property directly to your loved one, you leave it to this trust. The assets held in the trust as not considered “countable” assets in determining whether the individual qualifies for the benefits because the individual does not own them, rather the trust does. The trust, in turn, provides for extra items or care over and above what the government provides.

How Can the Trust Be Used?

The Special Needs Trust can pay for many of the items or services your loved one may want or need in the future. For example, Medicaid won’t pay for certain a medical treatment, the trust can step in and pay for it. If Medicaid will only pay for a basic piece of medical equipment, the trust can provide whatever additional funds are necessary to pay for a nicer model. The trust can pay for alternative treatments, vitamins and supplements, massages and even grooming supplies. The Trust can also pay for those extras that may not be medically necessary, but which would definitely increase the disabled person’s quality of life, such as summer camp, airline tickets for travel (including a companion, if necessary), electronic games, computer equipment, nicer furniture or even a larger television.

What Assets Can Be Used to “Fund” A Special Needs Trust?

Almost any type of asset can be used to “fund” a special needs trust, including life insurance proceeds, other inheritances or lifetime gifts. Once the trust is established, other family members or friends can add to the trust through their own estate plans.

Who Manages the Trust?

The trust funds are managed, administered and distributed by the trustee. The trustee should be someone who gets along well with the disabled person and has his best interests at heart as he is the one who will decide if and when any money is distributed. The trustee should also be someone who is comfortable managing money and has a track record of being responsible with their own money.

If you do not have a good candidate to serve as trustee, or if you intend to leave only a modest amount of money to the trust, consider using a “pooled trust.” A pooled trust is a type of special needs trust that is run by a non-profit organization which pools and invests funds from many families. Under the pooled trust structure, each disabled person still has a separate account for those funds added by his family which are used only for his benefit, but all of the funds are invested and managed as a whole.

Additional Benefits of a Special Needs Trust

While it may seem like a good idea simply to leave a set amount of money to a sibling or other close relative, with the understanding that the money will be spent on the disabled person, this strategy often backfires. Once the “holder” receives the money, it legally belongs to him, and he cannot be forced to use it for the disabled person. Even when all the parties have the best of intentions, things can still go wrong. If the “holder” of the money passes away, those funds will be distributed to his or her beneficiaries, who may not want to use it for the disabled person. The “holder” may at some later point in time be involved in litigation, bankruptcy or a divorce. None of those legal proceedings would differentiate between the money he is “holding” for the benefit of the disabled person and his own assets.

The use of a Special Needs Trust would solve these problems while ensuring that the funds are used solely to enrich the life of the disabled person.

Let’s Connect.

If you’d like to learn more or set up a Special Needs Trust as part of your estate plan, let’s talk. We can meet at my office, located in Elm Grove, Wisconsin, or I am happy to make a house visit.  You can reach me by clicking below.


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What You Need to Settle Your Affairs

A Checklist of Documents You Will Need to Settle Your Affairs After You Die

• List of Funeral Instructions and prepaid funeral contracts
• Medicare Card/Health Insurance Card
• VA File Number, Military discharge papers
• Birth certificate and Death Certificate
• Marriage license or Divorce Decree
• Prenuptial/postnuptial agreements
• Revocable/Living Trust agreements
• Last Will and Testament

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What is a Trust?

Trusts: An Explanation of What They Are and How They Could Benefit You

A trust is a legal relationship in which one person, the Grantor, transfers property to another person known as the Trustee. The Trustee then holds the property, managing and using it for the benefit of a third person, known as the beneficiary. The property can be almost any type of property- money, real estate, business interests, securities, etc. The Grantor may also be referred to as the Donor, Settlor or Trustor. Depending upon the type of trust, the Grantor, Trustee and Beneficiary may be three different individuals, or in some instances, they may all be the same person. The document which creates this relationship and spells out the terms is known as the “trust agreement.” Once created, a trust is a legal entity which is capable of owning property. It may even have its own tax payer identification number and have to file income tax returns.

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Organizing Your Most Important Papers

One thing each of us can do for the future is to get our personal and financial records in order. These records are both useful and something you will need on numerous occasions throughout your lifetime, including annual income tax preparation, financial planning and estate planning. It may even be relatives or friends who will need it in the event that something has happened to you. If you become incapacitated or pass away, your loved ones will need this information and documentation to take over your financial affairs, deal with insurance claims, apply for government benefits (such as medical assistance), or to settle your personal and financial affairs in the event of your death. You’re doing your loved ones a tremendous favor by keeping good records. Your filing system doesn’t need to be elaborate, just organized. The following is a list of what records you should maintain and how long you should maintain them.

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When a Loved One Dies

A Checklist of What to Do When a Loved One Dies

When a loved one passes away, it is an understandably stressful time. It can be even more stressful and/or traumatic trying to remember all of the details that must be taken care of related to a person’s death. If you are in charge of handling the affairs of the decedent (the person who has died), here is a checklist of some of the more important considerations:

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