Wisconsin Marital Property Law

By
February 16, 2022

In Wisconsin, spring is wedding season, and many of our clients are beginning to request assistance with preparing pre-nuptial agreements in anticipation of the big day.  Attorney Shanna Yonke walks viewers through Wisconsin’s complex Marital Property Law in her latest post.

Video Transcript:

My name is Shanna Yonke, and I’m an attorney on Ruder Ware’s Estate Planning Team. While we’re suffering through negative temperatures, spring is less than two months away. In Wisconsin, spring is wedding season, and our clients are beginning to contact us to request assistance with preparing pre-nuptial agreements in anticipation of the big day.

Wisconsin Marital Property Law provides default laws for the ownership, management, and disposition upon divorce or death of property owned by spouses. The default rule is that all property is marital property, and each spouse owns an undivided one-half interest in marital property.

There are two types of exceptions to this general rule. First, Wisconsin law establishes some exceptions to the general rule. Second, spouses may establish their own rules in a marital property agreement, also known as a pre-nuptial agreement or post-nuptial agreement, depending on when it is signed.

So let’s dig deeper into some exceptions to the general rule that are established by Wisconsin law. – A gift or inheritance is individual property, and all income from and appreciation in the value of a gift or inheritance, is also individual property. – On the other hand, while a personal injury settlement is individual property, except to the extent that marital property was used to pay for expenses associated with the injury or lost income as a result of the injury, the income from a personal injury settlement is marital property.

There are exceptions to the general rule under Wisconsin law, but the difference between how income is classified in these two circumstances is important.

If a spouse wants the personal injury settlement to remain individual property, he or she needs to make sure that the income derived from the settlement is not mixed with the settlement itself. Why? Well, if individual property is mixed with marital property, then the individual property is converted to marital property. That is, unless the individual and marital components of the property can be traced. In practice, tracing individual and marital components of property is nearly impossible.

If spouses, or soon-to-be spouses, do not like the default rules, they can make their own rules in a marital property agreement. Of course, they need to understand the default rules first in order to negotiate their own rules.

Wisconsin Marital Property Law is complex and we have just barely scratched the surface. If you have questions regarding Wisconsin Marital Property Law or marital property agreements, please feel free to contact any attorney on Ruder Ware’s Estate Planning Team.

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The content in the following blog posts is based upon the state of the law at the time of its original publication. As legal developments change quickly, the content in these blog posts may not remain accurate as laws change over time. None of the information contained in these publications is intended as legal advice or opinion relative to specific matters, facts, situations, or issues. You should not act upon the information in these blog posts without discussing your specific situation with legal counsel.

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