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Carol J. Wessels

Attorney Profile

Top Rated Elder Law Attorney in Mequon, WI

Wessels & Liebau LLC
11649 N Port Washington Rd, Suite 210
Mequon, WI 53092
Phone: 262-264-7702
Fax: 262-264-7706
Selected to Super Lawyers: 2006 - 2021
Licensed in Wisconsin Since: 1988
Practice Areas: Elder Law, Estate & Trust Litigation, Estate Planning & Probate
Languages Spoken: English, French, Spanish
  • Virtual Appointments
Attorney Profile

Hire Carol J. Wessels for your elder law or special needs law issues. She is a partner in Wessels & Liebau LLC. She works with individuals and their families on issues pertaining to elder law and special needs planning. She helps people make complicated decisions on long term care planning matters, by explaining things in an understandable way. She understands the difficult issues related to elder care that come up when a person is diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and focuses a significant part of her practice on helping these individuals and families through their journey.  She also consults regularly with personal injury lawyers and other lawyers whose own clients are receiving public benefits and who need advice on protecting benefits in light of a PI settlement, inheritance, pending property division or other development. Wessels & Liebau (originally Wessels Law Office) serves clients throughout the state of Wisconsin, primarily in Southeastern Wisconsin including Milwaukee County, Ozaukee County, Waukesha County, Sheboygan County, Washington County, as well as Walworth, Racine and Kenosha Counties. She handles cases involving matters that range from Medicaid planning and other long-term care planning including special needs trusts, to financial abuse, guardianship, estate planning, trust administration, probate, and Medicare Set Aside consultations. Carol handles contested matters, administrative hearings and appeals related to elder law issues, and frequently receives referrals from other attorneys who prefer not to handle contested cases. She has taken cases as high as the Wisconsin Supreme Court and Supreme Court of the United States.  Carol's special passion for serving individuals with Alzheimer's and Dementia, their care partners and families, comes from  her history as caretaker and advocate for her mother who had Alzheimer's.

Carol earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in 1985 and a Juris Doctor from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1988. The bulk of Carol's career has been devoted to advocating for the elderly, as director of the SeniorLAW program at Legal Action of Wisconsin, a staff attorney at the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups in Madison, and in private practice. 

Carol J. Wessels is is on the national Board of Directors of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA). She is a published author many times over, and has also appeared in media and on television, such as “The Dr. Phil Show.” She also shares her knowledge with others through lectures and continuing legal education courses, and writes a blog about elder law and Alzheimer's at  Further, Carol is highly involved in the legal community. In addition to being on the Board of Directors of NAELA, she is the past chair of and current advisor to the Elder and Special Needs Law Section of the State Bar of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. She is also past chair of the Public Interest Section of the State Bar of Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. 

Ms. Wessels holds an Avvo “Superb” rating. She was recognized as the Best Elder Law Attorney in Milwaukee by Best Lawyers in 2014, and has been on several top lists. Her firm, Wessels & Liebau LLC, is recognized as a Tier 1 Best Law Firm in the field of Elder Law.

Outside her practice, Ms. Wessels spends her time as a warrior in the fight to find for a cure for Alzheimer's through her work on the Board of Directors of the Alzheimer's Association of Wisconsin, where she currently serves as the chair of the Public Policy Committee. She also likes bicycling, camping and rescuing old dogs. She is passionate about a number of causes, including the Alzheimer’s Association and the Wisconsin Humane Society.

Practice Areas
  • 70%Elder Law
  • 20%Estate & Trust Litigation
  • 10%Estate Planning & Probate
Focus Areas

Will Contests, Estate Planning, Guardianships & Conservatorships, Living Wills, Power of Attorney, Probate & Estate Administration, Trusts, Wills


16 Years Super Lawyers
  • Super Lawyers: 2006 - 2021

About Carol J. Wessels

First Admitted: 1988, Wisconsin

Professional Webpage:

Scholarly Lectures/Writings

  • “Legal Issues and Options for People with Alzheimer’s”: Alzheimer’s Association Educational Presentation, September, 2011
  • Team taught a class on Elder Law at the University of Wisconsin Law School, 1993
  • “Differences between Veterans Aid and Attendance and Medicaid” : 24th Annual Law and the Elderly, March 2011
  • "Medicare Supplemental Insurance: Mandatory Benefits" - Special Problems of the Aging Annual Seminar
  • “Obtaining Attorney Fees Under the Wisconsin Equal Access to Justice Act”: 13th Annual Elder Law Workshop, January 2011
  • "Skilled Nursing Facility Coverage" - Special Problems of the Aging Annual Seminar
  • “Public Benefits and Their Impact on Guardianships” Guardian ad Litem Seminar, State Bar of Wisconsin, May 2010
  • "Estate Planning for our Furry Friends” Wisconsin Register in Probate Conference, May 2010
  • “Comparison between Veterans Aid and Attendance and Medicaid” : Panel Discussion, 12th Annual Elder Law Workshop, January 2010
  • Co-Presenter, “Divestment, Asset protection and Community Waivers”: Legal Issues of the Aging, September 2009
  • “Medical Assistance Spousal Impoverishment: Increasing the Community Spouse Asset Level” State Bar Convention May 2009
  • Elder Abuse, Guardianships and Advance Directives: Washington County Senior Concerns, April 2009
  • Co-Presenter “Family Care Overview” Elder Law Section Workshop, Jan. 2009
  • Guardianship and Elder Abuse: Health Ed Training November 2008, 2009
  • “Mysterious Medicaid Programs-Medicaid Waivers” Legal Issues of the Aging-State Bar of Wisconsin, September 2004 
  • Environmental Law Society, GAVEL, Advocate student newspaper staff writer, University Of Wisconsin Law School
  • “Treatment of Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) Endowments Under the DRA and Wisconsin Statutes”: Legal Issues of the Aging, September 2008
  • Co-Author, Sprint Communications Inc. v. Jacobs: A Recent Supreme Court Case Provides Additional Option for Medicaid Challenges , Elder Law Journal of Wisconsin, Vol. 24, Issue #1 (Spring, 2014)
  • “Construction and Reformation of Trusts”-Using Special Needs Trusts for Disabled Beneficiaries, State Bar of Wisconsin, April, 2008
  • Author, Be Careful What You Ask For...Why a Finding that Alzheimer’s is a Mental illness Would Bring the Probate Courts to a Grinding Halt, Elder Law Journal of Wisconsin, Vol. 21, #4 (2011)
  • “Tips and Traps under Chs. 54 & 55” Waukesha Bar Association , Jan. 2008
  • Author, Adding Veterans Benefits to Your Practice, NAELA News, Vol.22, No. 5, 2010
  • “Key Points: Deficit Reduction Act of 2005" Sheboygan Estate Planning Council October 2007
  • Author, Use of Medical and Remedial Expenses to Reduce Institutional Cost Share Under Operations Memo 08-02, Elder Law News, Vol. 18, No. 1, Winter 2008 
  • Co-Presenter, “Medicaid Goes to Court”:Legal Issues of the Aging conference, State Bar of Wisconsin, September 2007
  • Author, Vindicated! 2007-2009 Biennial Budget contains “Keup amendment” requiring Medical Assistance Providers to make full refunds in retroactive eligibility cases, Elder Law News, Vol. 17, No. 3, Fall 2007
  • “Advance Directives: More than End-of-Life Decision making”-State Bar of Wisconsin, March 2007
  • Author, Examples of DRA Changes to Divestment Penalties, Wisconsin Lawyer May 2006
  • “Role of the GAL”–Disability Rights Wisconsin GAL training, May and September, 2006
  • “Interstate Guardianships after Jane E.P.” Register in Probate Conference, May 11, 2006
  • Author, Treated with Respect: Enforcing Patient Autonomy by Defending Advance, Directives , Spring 2005 Marquette Elder’s Advisor Journal
  • “Litigation against Fiduciaries”-Wisconsin Bar Association Annual Convention, May 9, 2006
  • Authored the 2007 Update to Guardianship Chapter 26, Wisconsin Practice Series, 4thEd., Thompson West Publishing 2004
  • “Funding, Ethics, and Advocacy for Adults” State Bar of Wisconsin 2005 Guardian ad Litem Training
  • Author, The “Independent Living” Eviction in Subsidized Housing, National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys Quarterly Journal, Summer 2002
  • “Elder Law Updates”- Sept. 2005 Legal Issues of the Aging Seminar, State Bar of Wisconsin
  • Co-Author, Senior Citizens and the Law, Center for Public Representation, Inc. (7th edition 1995)
  • “Incompetency, the Legal Perspective”- State Bar Convention 2005
  • Co-Author(Original co-author of Housing chapter, current co-author of Medicaid Chapter), Advising Older Clients and Their Families, State Bar of Wisconsin (1997-2012)
  • “The Guardian ad Litem’s Role in Placing People with Developmental Disabilities or Mental Illness in the Community”–Wisconsin Coalition for Advocacy Training 2005
  • Co-Author (Author of Chapters on Guardianship and Elder Law), Wisconsin Practice Series, 5th Edition Thompson Reuters 2012 
  • “Defending Advance Directives”– State Bar of Wisconsin seminar, April 2004
  • “ Medicaid Estate Recovery: What you need to know now”: State Bar of Wisconsin Pinnacle Presentation, May 29, 2014
  • “Medicaid Waiver Programs”–Elder Law Section Workshop, January 2004
  • "When Elder Law Meets Probate”: State Bar of Wisconsin Pinnacle Presentation, May 29,2014, aired June 19, 2014
  • “Medicaid Waiver Programs” – Elder Law Section Workshop, January 2004
  • “Probate Post Act 20: It’s not as hard as you think it is”: 16th Annual Elder Law Workshop, Jan.31. 2014
  • "Increasing Assets in Spousal Impoverishment Cases" and "MA Long Term Care Programs" -Inaugural Public Interest Law Conference, April 4, 2002
  • “MSA’s and Trusts” : Car Crash Symposium, State Bar of Wisconsin Dec. 13, 2013
  • "Guardianship Fees" - Guardianship Symposium; and "Nursing Home Residents' Rights" - Legal Action Volunteer Lawyers Training, 2001
  • “Representing Victims of Elder Abuse”:15th Annual Elder Law Workshop, January 2013
  • "Practical Tips for Handling Elder Abuse Cases" Special Problems of the Aging Annual Seminar, September 2001
  • “Reigning Cats and Dogs: Estate Planning for Pets” State Bar of Wisconsin CLE Seminar, Fall 2012
  • Co-Presenter, “Veterans Benefits”: Elder Law Workshop 2012
  • "Legislative and Administrative Updates - Elder Law" State Bar Convention, 2001
  • “Be Careful What You Ask For: The Statutory Provisions That Tie the Hands of Agents and Limit an Individual’s Right to Direct His or Her Health Care (and What Can Be Done About Them.)” Legal Issues of the Aging Seminar, September 2011
  • "Medical Debt Collection" - State Bar Midwinter Convention, 2000


  • Tarantino v. Apfel ,97-C-0659
  • Senger v. DHFS, Case No. 03-10777, cert. denied June 27, 2005
  • James Szymczak v. The Terrace, 2006 WI App 3
  • Stern v. DHFS, 222 Wis. 2d 521, 588 N.W. 2d 658 (1998) (“Stern II”)
  • Blumer v. DHFS 
  • Gartrell v. Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee ,93-C-0695
  • DHFS v. Blumer, 534 U.S. 473, 122 S.Ct. 962 (Feb. 2, 2002)
  • Keup v. DHFS, 2004 WI 16; U.S. Supreme Court cert. denied sub nom. Senger v. DHFS June 27, 2005
  • Janice Mack v. Health & Family Services, 231 Wis. 2d 644, 605 N.W. 2d 651 (1999)
  • Gorchals v. DHFS, 224 Wis. 2d 541,591 N.W.2d 615 (Ct. App. 1999)
  • Joan S. v. Gudeman ,91-C-717
  • Gee v. Leean, 99-C-0542
  • Fond du Lac County v. Helen E.F. 2012 WI 50
  • Kindcare v. Judith G., 2002 WI App 36
  • Thyra K v. Community Care Organization, 214 Wis. 2d 434, 571 N.W. 2d 700 (1997)
  • Doe & L. Moe v. Goodrich, 89-C-1376, 1983

Educational Background

  • University of Wisconsin Law School, 1988
  • University of Wisconsin Whitewater, Bachelor of Arts, Majors: French, Secondary Education Qualification, Minor: Political Science, Honors: Foreign Language Department Nominee for Outstanding Junior Award, 1984, Honors: Pi Delta Phi National French Honor Society, Honor Roll, 1983-1985, Honors: Dean's Advisory Committee, 1983-1985, 1985


  • This is a copy of the video shown when I received the Leaders in the Law award in 2013., Leaders in the Law video, 2013

Other Outstanding Achievements

  • Selected as a "Leader in the Law" by Wisconsin Law Journal, 2013


  • Wisconsin Chapter Member of the Year, Wisconsin Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, 2014
  • Foreign Language Department Nominee for Outstanding Junior Award, University of Wisconsin Whitewater, 1984
  • Super Lawyers, 2006-present
  • Best Lawyers in America, 2010-present
  • Leader in the Law, Wisconsin Law Journal, 2013
  • Pi Delta Phi National French Honor Society, Honor Roll, University of Wisconsin Whitewater, 1983 - 1985
  • Top 25 Women Attorneys in 2012 and 2013
  • Milwaukee’s Best Elder Law Attorney, 2014
  • Wisconsin Law Foundation, Fellow, 2013
  • Chapter Member of the Year, Wisconsin Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, 2014
  • Dean's Advisory Committee, University of Wisconsin Whitewater, 1983 - 1985
  • Top 50 Attorneys 2013
  • Leading Lawyer by Milwaukee Magazine, 2012 – present

Bar/Professional Activity

  • Board of Directors, National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys: Member of national Board of Directors, 2019
  • Wisconsin Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, Chair, 2010
  • Board of Directors - National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, 2018
  • National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys - Wisconsin Chapter,  Past Chair (2009) and current Board Advisor, 2019
  • State Bar of Wisconsin, Elder Law Section, current advisor. Past Chair, 2008-2009, 2019
  • Wisconsin Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Member, University of Wisconsin Law School
  • State Bar of Wisconsin, Past appointee to Section Leaders’ Advisory Committee and Convention Committee
  • Milwaukee Bar Association, Elder Law Section, Co-Chair, 2010
  • State Bar of Wisconsin, Past Chair of the Public Interest Law Section
  • Ozaukee and Milwaukee County Bar Associations,  Co-Chair of Elder Law Section of Milwaukee Bar Association 2011-2012

Pro bono/Community Service

  • Chairperson of the Public Policy Committee, Wisconsin Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, 2020
  • Wisconsin Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, Member of the Board of Directors, 2019
  • Feith Family YMCA Board of Managers  , 2010
  • Task Force on Alzheimer’s Challenging Behaviors, Member, 2015

Industry Groups

  • Alzheimer's Association
  • Health Care
  • Long Term Care
  • NAELA Wisconsin Chapter
  • National Academy Of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA)
  • State Bar Of Wisconsin Elder Law Section Past Chair


  • “Carol is the strongest advocate for the elderly and disabled. She is smart and tough.”
  • “Carol is an excellent attorney who is always willing to share her expertise with other attorneys across the country.”
  • “Carol is passionate about elder law and donates significant time and energy to support the practice of elder law in Wisconsin.”
  • “Carol is smart and savvy, a tenacious advocate for her clients' interests.”
  • “She is very thorough and a great litigator.”
  • “Carol has been a true leader in Elder Law. She has served as Chair of the Elder Law Section of the Wisconsin State Bar, is a frequent writer and speaker on Elder Law issues, and is the go-to lawyer on issues affecting the elderly. Her caring manner and dedication to helping those in need is an example to us all.”

These comments were made by fellow attorneys during the annual nomination process.

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Office Location for Carol J. Wessels

11649 N Port Washington Rd
Suite 210
Mequon, WI 53092

Phone: 262-264-7702

Fax: 262-264-7706

Last Updated: 5/15/2022

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