John L. Maier, Jr.

John L. Maier, Jr.

Attorney Profile

Top Rated Land Use & Zoning Attorney in Elkhorn, WI

Sweet & Maier, SC
 | 114 North Church Street, Elkhorn, WI 53121
Phone: 262-723-5480
Selected to Super Lawyers: 2006 - 2009, 2011 - 2012, 2014 - 2017
Licensed Since: 1974
Practice Areas:
  • Land Use/Zoning (30%),
  • Estate Planning & Probate (30%),
  • Real Estate: Consumer (30%),
  • Environmental (10%)
Attorney Profile

John L. Maier, Jr., is the President of Sweet & Maier,S.C., and has over 40 years of experience in business, estate planning, real estate development, including tax increment financing (TIF) districts, land use, subdivision formation, annexation and zoning.  He has been  selected numerous times for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America.   This year marks the tenth year of selection in Wisconsin Super Lawyers.  John has received a Martindale-Hubble AV rating, which is the highest possible rating based on legal ability and general ethical standards.  John is also a member of the Wisconsin State Bar, Illinois State Bar, Walworth County Bar, The Wisconsin Fellows; Wisconsin Law Foundation, Wisconsin Association of Law Office Administrators, Walworth County Estate Planning Council, and the Community Associations Institute of Wisconsin (CAI). 

John has spoken at various venues including the National Community Association Lawyers Conference in Tucson, Arizona, the Wisconsin Condominium Association, the Wisconsin State Bar on Marketing and Client Development as well as Personal Career Planning for Attorneys, and the local chapter of AARP on Estate Planning.  He has worked with local judges to establish the Walworth County Foreclosure Mediation Program to help homeowners in foreclosure keep their homes.  John is also a volunteer attorney for WEN (Wisconsin Entrepreneur's Network) Business Assistance Program.  John has combined  time and talent to produce the chapter entitled "Condominiums and Time Shares" in the latest edition of Wisconsin Practice Series:  Methods of Practice, published by the Milwaukee Bar Association and West Publishing Company. 

White Papers

  • Attorney Francis Scott Key: The Reluctant Patriot (2014) - Those of us who practice law, and even those who don’t, have our “heroes of the legal profession” and I’m no different.   Lawyers who have made singular contributions to our country should be remembered, and this coming January 11 marks the 170th anniversary of the death of Francis Scott Key, an American lawyer.               Born on August 1, 1779 in Maryland, he attended grammar school in Annapolis, and then went on to study at St. John’s College.   He returned home to set up a law practice and became a very successful lawyer, with his office located in the Washington DC Georgetown community.  Things were good for Key, and his wife, Mary “Polly” Lloyd in the early 1800’s, and the couple went on to have 11 children.                In the early 1800’s, the United States and Great Britain were at odds over various matters, including the kidnapping of US seamen, and the conflict would eventually result in the War of 1812.  Key was opposed to the war.  His religious upbringing, and legal training, convinced him that our country’s disagreements with Britain should be settled without armed conflict.  Unfortunately, a settlement could not be had, and war broke out.               Despite his religious and personal reservations, Key joined the Georgetown Light Field Artillery, and served his country.  Things did not go well for the Americans, though, and in 1814, although it must sound impossible today, British forces actually captured Washington DC, and burned the President’s House [as the White House was then known].  British troops took Key’s friend and colleague, Dr. William Beanes, prisoner.  Because of his training as an attorney and negotiator, Key was asked to help secure the release of Dr. Beanes.  Key travelled to Baltimore, where British naval forces were located in Chesapeake Bay.  The negotiation process saw Key, and Col. John Skinner, brought out to a British warship anchored in Baltimore Harbor where talks proceeded, ultimately resulting in the release of Key’s friend.                Even though Dr. Beanes’ freedom had been secured, the British refused to allow Key and Skinner to return to land because by that time the bombardment of Ft. McHenry had commenced.  Ft. McHenry was held by the Americans, guarded the harbor and defended the City of Baltimore.  During the long night of September 13-14, 1814, Key, Skinner and Beanes all watched the continual shelling of the fort, from their vantage point at sea on the British ship.                As darkness descended, Key would later recall that he could see little more of the battle than the “red glare” of the British newly-designed gunpowder propelled Congreve rockets tracing fiery arcs across the sky, and wrote that the “heavens aglow were a seething sea of flame”.  He and his friends were also constantly shaken by the sound of “bombs bursting in air” – which were British cannon shells detonating short of their target.  Not until the sea mists dissipated at dawn the morning of September 14 did Key learn the outcome of the tremendous battle.  As the sun rose, he did not see the British Union Jack flying above the fort, as he had feared --  but rather it was the defiant, enormous, American flag which the fort’s commander, Major Armistead, flew --  now known as the famous “Star Spangled Banner”.             At that moment, Francis Scott Key, American Lawyer, was so moved that he immediately, while still on board the British vessel, began to compose a poem about his experience.  Key and his companions, including Dr. Beanes, were released, and Key went back to Baltimore where he finished his composition at a local hotel.  His brother-in-law, Joseph Nicholson, who was a militia commander at Fort McHenry had the poem printed, and it was distributed to the public, under the title:  “Defence of Fort M’Henry”.   The verse was accompanied by a suggestion that it be set to the music of a British drinking song (“To Anacreon in Heaven”), and within the next few weeks, the poem had been reprinted in various newspapers, and quickly spread across the nation.  In England, news of the setback in Baltimore was met with dismay.  Both sides had expended a tremendous amount of money, and had suffered significant losses in both human casualties, and property damage (including the burning of Washington DC).  Eventually, a peace treaty was entered into on December 24, 1814, and the war was ended.               Key continued his law practice after the war, and became the Washington DC District Attorney in 1833.  Ten years later he died, at age 63.  The Star Spangled Banner continued to be held up as a patriotic song, and in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson declared that it be played at official events.  Finally, on March 3, 1931, President Herbert Hoover, and Congress, had the song declared the US National Anthem.                So we have Francis Scott Key, a lawyer, to thank for the preservation of the account of the successful defense of Fort McHenry, and, in a greater sense, the feeling and passion of what it means to be proud of your country.  Take a moment the next time you have occasion to listen to, or sing, the Star Spangled Banner and imagine yourself on that ship witnessing the events that Francis Scott Key has preserved for us, and say a prayer for all those who continue to fight for the freedoms we are privileged to enjoy her in our country.                      of us who practice law, and even those who don’t, have our “heroes of the legal profession” and I’m no different.   Lawyers who have made singular contributions to our country should be remembered, and this coming January 11 marks the 170th anniversary of the death of Francis Scott Key, an American lawyer.               Born on August 1, 1779 in Maryland, he attended grammar school in Annapolis, and then went on to study at St. John’s College.   He returned home to set up a law practice and became a very successful lawyer, with his office located in the Washington DC Georgetown community.  Things were good for Key, and his wife, Mary “Polly” Lloyd in the early 1800’s, and the couple went on to have 11 children.                In the early 1800’s, the United States and Great Britain were at odds over various matters, including the kidnapping of US seamen, and the conflict would eventually result in the War of 1812.  Key was opposed to the war.  His religious upbringing, and legal training, convinced him that our country’s disagreements with Britain should be settled without armed conflict.  Unfortunately, a settlement could not be had, and war broke out.               Despite his religious and personal reservations, Key joined the Georgetown Light Field Artillery, and served his country.  Things did not go well for the Americans, though, and in 1814, although it must sound impossible today, British forces actually captured Washington DC, and burned the President’s House [as the White House was then known].  British troops took Key’s friend and colleague, Dr. William Beanes, prisoner.  Because of his training as an attorney and negotiator, Key was asked to help secure the release of Dr. Beanes.  Key travelled to Baltimore, where British naval forces were located in Chesapeake Bay.  The negotiation process saw Key, and Col. John Skinner, brought out to a British warship anchored in Baltimore Harbor where talks proceeded, ultimately resulting in the release of Key’s friend.                Even though Dr. Beanes’ freedom had been secured, the British refused to allow Key and Skinner to return to land because by that time the bombardment of Ft. McHenry had commenced.  Ft. McHenry was held by the Americans, guarded the harbor and defended the City of Baltimore.  During the long night of September 13-14, 1814, Key, Skinner and Beanes all watched the continual shelling of the fort, from their vantage point at sea on the British ship.                As darkness descended, Key would later recall that he could see little more of the battle than the “red glare” of the British newly-designed gunpowder propelled Congreve rockets tracing fiery arcs across the sky, and wrote that the “heavens aglow were a seething sea of flame”.  He and his friends were also constantly shaken by the sound of “bombs bursting in air” – which were British cannon shells detonating short of their target.  Not until the sea mists dissipated at dawn the morning of September 14 did Key learn the outcome of the tremendous battle.  As the sun rose, he did not see the British Union Jack flying above the fort, as he had feared --  but rather it was the defiant, enormous, American flag which the fort’s commander, Major Armistead, flew --  now known as the famous “Star Spangled Banner”.             At that moment, Francis Scott Key, American Lawyer, was so moved that he immediately, while still on board the British vessel, began to compose a poem about his experience.  Key and his companions, including Dr. Beanes, were released, and Key went back to Baltimore where he finished his composition at a local hotel.  His brother-in-law, Joseph Nicholson, who was a militia commander at Fort McHenry had the poem printed, and it was distributed to the public, under the title:  “Defence of Fort M’Henry”.   The verse was accompanied by a suggestion that it be set to the music of a British drinking song (“To Anacreon in Heaven”), and within the next few weeks, the poem had been reprinted in various newspapers, and quickly spread across the nation.  In England, news of the setback in Baltimore was met with dismay.  Both sides had expended a tremendous amount of money, and had suffered significant losses in both human casualties, and property damage (including the burning of Washington DC).  Eventually, a peace treaty was entered into on December 24, 1814, and the war was ended.               Key continued his law practice after the war, and became the Washington DC District Attorney in 1833.  Ten years later he died, at age 63.  The Star Spangled Banner continued to be held up as a patriotic song, and in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson declared that it be played at official events.  Finally, on March 3, 1931, President Herbert Hoover, and Congress, had the song declared the US National Anthem.                So we have Francis Scott Key, a lawyer, to thank for the preservation of the account of the successful defense of Fort McHenry, and, in a greater sense, the feeling and passion of what it means to be proud of your country.  Take a moment the next time you have occasion to listen to, or sing, the Star Spangled Banner and imagine yourself on that ship witnessing the events that Francis Scott Key has preserved for us, and say a prayer for all those who continue to fight for the freedoms we are privileged to enjoy her in our country.                     

  • Over Assessed? How Do You Appeal Your Propery Tax Assessment (2011) - Over Assessed? How Do You Appeal Your Property Tax Assessment   The overall value of real estate in the United States has declined by over 30% since the peak in real estate prices, which occurred in 2006. Property owners in Wisconsin have not been exempted from the loss in value, and real estate prices are not expected to return to 2006 levels anytime soon. Since real estate taxes are calculated based upon the assessed value on one’s property, those owners have paid ever increasing attention to what the local tax assessors are saying about the value of their property. And, the fact that there has been a decline in property value has let to a reported increase in the number of taxpayers challenging their property tax assessments – not only in Wisconsin, but nationwide. Attorney John L. Maier, Jr. addressed the assembled members of the Walworth County Bar Association at its December meeting, and presented a talk on "Wisconsin Real Property Assessment Appeals." During his seminar, Maier addressed methods available to property owners of both informally, and formally, seeking a reduction where property is over-assessed. Attorney Maier reminded the attorneys in attendance that January 1 of each year is the date specified by law for purposes of establishing the assessed value of each property in Wisconsin. So, now is the time to take a look at the value which has been set for your property, and if you believe it is too high, it is never too early to begin to work on having the tax assessment lowered. Maier has had tax assessment cases at all stages of appeal throughout his career, including one case that involved The Abbey Resort, that went all the way to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. A copy of John’s outline is available on the Firm’s website: www.wisclaw.com.

  • 2010 Tax Relief Act: What it Means for Taxpayers (2010) - The “Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010” (“2010 Tax Relief Act” or “Act”) was signed into law on December 17, 2010, by President Obama, and provides at least some temporary guidance to taxpayers, after nearly a year of uncertainty created by the inaction of Congress.   Unfortunately, the Act only provides for a two year extension of the "Bush tax cuts", ending on December 31, 2012.  Thus, we will have to wait for some additional, hopefully more permanent, tax relief, in the coming months.   The 2010 Tax Relief Act has an impact on nearly every American taxpayer, both individuals and businesses.  The highlights of the Act are summarized below.   Individual Income Tax Rates Remain the Same   The Act extends the Bush tax cuts, which were set to expire at the end of 2010, for all taxpayers, including individuals with incomes above $200,000 ($250,000 for married couples). The 2010 Tax Relief Act provides the following: Income tax rates for individuals will stay at 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33% and 35% through December 31, 2012. The phase-out of personal exemptions and itemized deductions has been blocked through 2012. The top capital gain, and qualified dividend, tax rate of 15% is extended through 2012. Relief from the “marriage tax penalty” is maintained for two more years (through 2012). The $1,000 child tax credit is extended through 2012, as are the expanded dependent care credit, and other child care and educational expense deductions.   Employee Payroll Tax Cut (for 2011 Only)   The Act provides for a reduction of the employee share of FICA taxes by 2% from 6.2% to 4.2% − but for 2011 only.  It does not affect the employer share of FICA taxes. This provision is meant to replace the Making Work Pay Credit that was in effect for 2009 and 2010. Unlike the Making Work Pay Credit, however, there is no phase-out for high-income taxpayers. Thus, to a taxpayer with wages at or above the $106,800 cap, this reduction will be worth $2,136. To provide parity, a similar reduction in self-employment (“SECA”) taxes will be provided for self-employed individuals.   Alternative Minimum Tax “Patch”   The Act includes a two-year Alternative Minimum Tax “patch” for tax years 2010 and 2011. The patch will prevent the AMT exemption from being dropped in 2010.  Without this “fix”, the AMT would have become applicable to millions of Americans, who would otherwise be exempt.     Estate, Gift and Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax Provisions    The 2010 Tax Relief Act provides for the following changes to federal gift and estate tax laws:   The Act reinstates the federal estate tax retroactively to Jan. 1, 2010, with a $5 million exemption and a top rate of 35%.  A special election is available for decedents dying in 2010.  An executor is given a choice either: (i) to use the $5 million exemption and a 35% estate tax with a stepped-up basis; or (ii) to elect no estate tax, with the modified carryover basis rules in effect for 2010. For calendar year 2010, there is a $5 million generation-skipping transfer tax exemption and a zero percent rate. Beginning in 2011, there will be an estate, gift and generation-skipping transfer tax exemption of $5 million per person and $10 million per couple, indexing these amounts for inflation beginning in 2012. The top tax rate of 35% for estate, gift, and generation-skipping transfer taxes will continue for an additional two years, through December 31, 2012.   The concept of “portability” of a spouse's unused estate tax exemption amount is introduced into the law:   The executor of a deceased spouse’s estate will have the ability to transfer any unused estate tax exemption to the surviving spouse. This transfer option will be effective for estates of decedents dying after December 31, 2010. Although portability may simplify planning for married couples, the portability does not apply to the generation-skipping transfer tax exemption. Additionally, a couple's estate planning documents should be reviewed to deal with the generation-skipping transfer tax planning, basis issues, and future appreciation, which may still make planning for a couple very complicated. The portability applies to the unused exemption of one’s last deceased spouse so remarriage complicates planning as well. An estate tax return must be filed on the first death, and an irrevocable election to allocate the unused exemption to the surviving spouse must be made on such return by the executor.   The Act reunifies gift and estate tax exemption amounts:   The 2010 Tax Relief Act reunifies the estate, gift and generation-skipping transfer tax exemptions for the first time since 2001. Beginning on January 1, 2011, each person will have one exemption for gift and estate taxes of $5 million, as well as a $5 million exemption from generation-skipping transfer taxes, and, as described above, married couples would have a total exemption of $10 million. The $5 million exemption will be effective for gifts made after December 31, 2010. This is significant, because individuals will no longer be limited to the $1 million dollar lifetime gift tax exemption.  Relief for Businesses:  Expense Deductions and Investment Incentives           The 2010 Tax Relief Act provides relief in the area of cost recovery (ie. depreciation) for equipment and property placed in service in 2011, as well as a variety of benefits and incentives for certain business investments, as follows: In one of the most expansive benefits for businesses, there will be full expensing of investments that currently qualify for bonus depreciation and are placed in service after September 8, 2010, through the end of 2011. This will allow businesses to expense the full cost of equipment and other qualifying property placed in service in 2011. Additionally, bonus depreciation at the current level (i.e., 50% expensing followed by regular depreciation) will be available for such investments in 2012. Section 179 expensing limits are currently $500,000, and investment limits are $2 million, pursuant to the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010. The 2010 Tax Relief Act provides for the levels to remain constant for 2010 and 2011 and provides for $125,000 with a $500,000 investment limit in 2012. The legislation also extends the 15-year cost recovery period for qualified leasehold improvements, qualified restaurant property and qualified retail improvements, to cover property placed in service through December 31, 2011.   Other Provisions in the Act   The 2010 Tax Relief Act also extends numerous other provisions that would otherwise have expired, and which have benefited both individuals and businesses.  Examples include the tax cuts enacted by the stimulus bill of 2009, and many of the tax provisions commonly referred to as “extenders.” These provisions include things such as: American Opportunity Credit; Earned Income Tax Credit enhancements; Child Credit enhancements; Research Credit; and Itemized deductions for state and local sales taxes.   Conclusions   While the 2010 Tax Relief Act provides for the extension of tax rates, and many favorable tax cuts, it is important to realize that it is not permanent.  Individuals and businesses are presented with unique planning opportunities for the next two years, including various enhanced gift and estate planning options to be considered.  Taxpayers and their advisors should keep up their lobbying efforts in regards to making permanent the two-year temporary “fix”, while at the same time taking advantage of the  opportunities presented by the new law.   This is but a short summary of the highlights of the Act, and does not purport to serve as an exhaustive list of all changes.  We welcome your questions, comments and inquiries, and stand by ready to help you with your personal and business planning needs.                                                                                                               John L. Maier, Jr., Esq. Sweet & Maier, S.C. December 28, 2010

  • How Not to Plan Your Estate - Art Marsh was born in Montana a century ago, in late December, 1915.  His parents weren’t too far removed from the first homesteaders, and he grew up on their farm in Plentywood as the fifth of seven children.  His mother worked all day to do the laundry and prepare meals for her family, while his father tended to the land.  Neither had much education and their lives were recorded only in the short and simple annals of the poor.  Many decades later he recalled that there hadn’t been much room for tenderness.  He never once heard his father tell his mother that he loved her, and he never once saw his parents show affection to each other.  Art’s education was cut short by the Depression, and it seemed he could look forward to the same hardscrabble life.   Then the war came.  After Pearl Harbor, Arthur March volunteered and became an enlisted man.  He served the country honorably in a stateside posting, and after he was discharged he used his GI benefits to get a higher education.    After graduation, Dr. Arthur Marsh moved to California.  It was the Golden State’s golden age.  The city of Gilroy – the small town where he settled after the war – boomed, with its state doubling in size and then doubling again, and doubling once more.  Dr. Marsh opened an optometry practice there; and as Gilroy prospered and its middle class grew, he saw to the vision of three generations of families.   Dr. Marsh also set down deep roots in his town.  He joined civic associations like the Rotary Club, grew thick connections in his profession, and was a faithful member of his local church.  He loved the outdoors and would often take vacations throughout the West with his brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews.  But he never married or had children of his own, and when he returned home, it was always to the same second floor apartment on Carmel Street.  It was only about 800 square feet, and Dr. Marsh furnished it modestly – a small table with a single chair on the right when one walked in, a living room connected to a kitchenette, and a single bedroom and bath.  Dr. Marsh was no means a miser, but the poverty of his childhood and youth had – as it did to so many of his generation – marked him for life and made him frugal.  He rented his little apartment for $175 a month and got by largely on Social Security.  But Dr. Marsh had been a good businessman, saving over $1 million before he retired in the ‘80s and investing it prudently well into retirement until it reached nearly $3 million.  His friends would sometimes josh him about his habits, but he would just tell them that his wealth was insurance against having to leave his apartment of 50 years to end up in a nursing home.   But the silent artillery of time began to bracket him – his sisters and brothers died one after the other.  Then, at the start of the new century, it hit him too.  In 2000 he had a terrible fall and broke his hip, which sent him to the hospital and rehab.  He began to use a walker and could not leave his second story apartment without help.  In 2007, when he was 91, things grew still worse.  He couldn’t drive a car, he couldn’t go to the doctor, and he could no longer even prepare his own food.  He suffered from incontinence, atrial fibrillation, congestive heart failure, hypertension, chronic back pain, arthritis, hearing loss in both ears, and deteriorating vision; then he suffered a stroke in the right frontal lobe of his brain. (According to Dr. Jonathan Mueller, the neuropsychiatric specialist who examined Dr. Marsh, this is the part of the brain associated with reflective self-awareness and insight.)   His physician, Dr. George Green, diagnosed him with dementia and cognitive decline.  These neurological problems showed themselves in Dr. Marsh’s poor short-term memory, diminished long-term memory, inability to perform simple arithmetic, and persistent deficiencies in visual-spatial analysis.  These problems also made him vulnerable – it had become difficult for him to remember any information about his assets.  Tests showed that he couldn’t repeat five digits in sequence – let alone manage, analyze, or protect his seven figure wealth.  In January of 2007 Dr. Marsh was admitted to St. Louise Regional Hospital for dehydration.  His doctor knew he lived alone, knew he had no immediate family, and knew that his room was on the second floor.  Even as he recovered a bit in the hospital, Dr. Marsh was told he couldn’t go back without first arranging for in-home care.   Enter Ms. Angelina Alhadi.  Ms. Alhadi is a native of the Philippines.  She had immigrated in the ‘80s and told Dr. Marsh that she was born into a poor family and spent many years working in rice paddies.  She claimed to have a bachelor’s degree in medical technology in her native country.  She found work here as a nurse’s assistant, which is what she did first at St. Louise Hospital in 1998 and then at a nursing home called Covenant Care in 2003.  When she wasn’t working these two jobs, she lived in a house in Hollister, California, that she co-owned with her estranged husband and fellow immigrant, Yahya Hassan Alhadi.  They had three children.   St. Louise knows the elderly can be vulnerable, and it has a written policy that bans its employees from soliciting work from patients.  But never mind – Ms. Alhadi slipped a note to Dr. Marsh when she heard that he wouldn’t be discharged without some in-home care ready for him.   Dr. Marsh accepted her offer, and she became his primary caregiver at the beginning of 2007.  As part of her employment, Ms. Alhadi was supposed to prepare his meals, bathe him, make sure he took his drugs, provide basic nursing, shop for groceries, do his banking, drive him wherever he needed to go, help him to and from the bathroom, wash his clothes, clean his apartment, and provide some companionship for what had become a lonely old age. Dr. Marsh hired Ms. Alhadi at an hourly rate, and she deposited her first paycheck from him in January, 2007.  She was paid according to their initial hourly arrangement through March.  But then he agreed to pay her $6,000 a month for her services – even though the going rate was $3,750.  He also gave her $1,000 a month for groceries – even though he only needed $400 a month to feed himself, and his mini fridge could only hold about $50 worth of food.  Ms. Alhadi began making deposit after deposit of cash into her bank account.  Dr. Marsh’s payments to Ms. Alhadi became irregular.  On April 14, he wrote a check to her for $11,100.00; two days later he wrote her another for $100,000.  He also bought her expensive electronic equipment.   Ms. Alhadi’s lifestyle began to improve.  In June, 2007 she used money from Dr. Marsh to make a down payment on a million dollar home in Gilroy.  After that, she began to pressure Dr. Marsh to help her with her mortgage payments.  By the end of November, 2007, he had written checks to her that added up to roughly $400,000 – which she used to pay off her husband’s $80,000 interest in their old home in Hollister and to remodel her new home in Gilroy.  She spent $7,000 on furniture (purchased by Dr. Marsh for her); $8,000 on a new stone facade; $34,000 on landscaping work; and $73,000 on a new pool complete with a spa and a “therapeutic turtle mosaic.”                                                                                                                                    This new pool almost became a problem for her.  She told Dr. Marsh about her plans for it before work began.  He said he didn’t see how it made sense for her to build a pool until she had her house paid off.  She ignored him.  Then one day she presented Dr. Marsh with the $22,000.00 invoice for digging the hole for the pool.  He roused himself to ask her:  “Who the hell is going to pay for it?”  She gave him a look as if to say: “Like who the hell do you think?  I expect you to pay for it.”  Dr. Marsh then relented and later said that he felt he had to pay for the pool because the work was already done and he had to accommodate his caregiver.   Sometime that summer Ms. Alhadi told Dr. Marsh that she had won a cruise, and that she wanted him to come with her.  This was a ploy – she hadn’t won anything, and he was afraid he’d be all alone at home without any assistance when she went.  Dr. Marsh paid $25,000 for the whole thing.  But though she took him along, Ms. Alhadi left him sitting alone in the sun while she went off with her own children.  Later, he couldn’t remember paying for the cruise and was surprised when he was shown the check he had written.   Dr. Marsh wasn’t yet wholly isolated.  He’d always been particularly close to one niece, Sheila Person.  But Ms. Person lived in Seattle and had her own life there.  As her uncle grew old, however, she made it a habit to call him every Sunday night to check in.  After Ms. Alhadi entered his life, her success in reaching him became sporadic.  By 2008 Ms. Person found it even more difficult to get in touch.  Ms. Alhadi would answer the phone and tell her that her uncle was asleep or eating, and sometimes the phone would just ring and ring with no answer.  By the end of the summer of 2008, neither Ms. Person nor Dr. Marsh’s other family members were able to get through Ms. Alhadi to talk to Dr. Marsh at all.   Ms. Alhadi wed isolation to expressions of affection.  She told Dr. Marsh four or five times a day that she loved him.  She suggested getting married and invited him to come live with her.  She would sit in front of him and cry about how she was financially struggling and worried about how she was going to survive and provide for her children. But, alas, the tears were not genuine, for Ms. Alhadi was at the same time hiding her newfound fortune.  In June 2007, as part of her divorce action, she signed and filed a property declaration under penalty of perjury in the Superior Court of California.  In that declaration, she disclosed none of the money Dr. Marsh had paid her, even though she had received at least $150,000 by that point.  In February 2008, as Ms. Alhadi’s divorce action continued, she again filed with the court under penalty of perjury an income-and-expense declaration, in which she disclosed only the income she earned from St. Louise and Covenant Care.   A month later she went to Margarita Lopez, a tax preparer, to complete her 2007 return.  She handed Ms. Lopez a handwritten list of her income and expenses; and when asked if she had any additional income, Ms. Alhadi said no.  She never once mentioned Dr. Marsh or the money that she had wheedled from him.   Forgetfulness?  Not likely because the mortgage applications that Ms. Alhadi filled out to get two mortgages on her new million dollar home showed that Ms. Alhadi told the bank that she earned $15,000 a month - $7,500 from her jobs at St. Louise and Covenant Care and $7,500 from her “second job” with Dr. Marsh.   Yet even this was only a fraction of what he was actually paying her.  By the fall of 2008 Dr. Marsh had written checks to Ms. Alhadi that totaled nearly $800,000.  Then Ms. Alhadi pressed down even harder.  In October she wrote to her mortgage company that she didn’t have enough money to make her mortgage payments and wanted her payments reduced.   Here begins the end of the story.  One sometimes hears mockery of the modern mantra that “your call may be monitored for quality-control purposes”, but Dr. Marsh had his wealth mostly in mutual funds with the Vanguard Group.  Vanguard records all of its phone calls, and Dr. Marsh is heard on the recordings in his own voice.  On one recording that October, the Vanguard representative identified herself and expressed concern that a fund owner had written five $100,000 checks in such a short time.  She began to ask Dr. Marsh how he had come to write them.  Ms. Alhadi’s voice is heard in the background telling Dr. Marsh to repeat his social security number, and reading to the Vanguard representative the account balances in his money-market fund.  In another she explains to Vanguard on what days, and exactly how many shares, Dr. Marsh had sold from his accounts.  In another call only thirty minutes later, she is heard in the background telling Dr. Marsh that he needed to tell Vanguard that he wants to sell stock.  Ms. Alhadi, however, always maintained that she knew nothing about Dr. Marsh’s finances.   The next day, Vanguard’s fraud team called Dr. Marsh to verify that he had authorized the five $100,000 checks to Ms. Alhadi.  During this call Ms. Alhadi yells in the background at Dr. Marsh, “reminding” him that he had written her five checks for $100,000, and Dr. Marsh replied: “I didn’t think they were all a hundred thousand dollars.”  Throughout the rest of the phone call, Dr. Marsh got confused and stated:  “I wrote one check, ten grand”?  At various points Ms. Alhadi threatens that he was going to get her in trouble if he didn’t confirm that he had written her the checks. Vanguard didn’t honor the checks.  It suspended his access to his accounts and sent him a letter to explain the steps he needed to take to regain control.  Remember, though, that Dr. Marsh was homebound.  He depended on Ms. Alhadi to get his mail, and she made sure he didn’t.  On one occasion, she told the FedEx delivery man that Dr. Marsh no longer lived there.  On another, she said that he wasn’t home.  Lies, all lies – Dr. Marsh couldn’t leave his apartment without her help.   The people at Vanguard now knew something was seriously wrong, and they sent a report of suspected elder abuse to the California Department of Health and Human Services in November 2008.  The Department assigned Susan Fowle to investigate Vanguard’s report.  She is part of the Financial Abuse Specialist Team that investigates elder-abuse referrals for the Santa Clara County Public Guardian’s Office.  Investigator Fowle – whom the Court later found to be an entirely credible witness – went to visit Dr. Marsh with two other members of her team and interviewed him for two hours.  When she asked him about the money he was paying Ms. Alhadi, he was so adamant that he hadn’t written five $100,000 checks that Investigator Fowle had to call Vanguard again after the interview to make sure it was true.  That was when she learned he had written a lot more than just five.   Ms. Alhadi made a last lunge for Dr. Marsh’s money.  She took him to see an estate attorney, James Simoni, in November 2008 to have Dr. Marsh grant her a power of attorney.  Mr. Simoni, whom the Court also found to be a credible witness, testified that he learned about the blocked Vanguard accounts and supposed promise by Dr. Marsh to Ms. Alhadi to pay her approximately $300,000 in exchange for taking care of him for the rest of his life.  The Court later found that this trip to his office was a ploy by Ms. Alhadi to get those accounts unblocked and to get her hands on the last few $100,000 checks that Dr. Marsh had written.  Dr. Marsh later told Mr. Simoni that Ms. Alhadi was pressuring him to get named in his Will, and that he needed to create a separate trust for her so that his family members wouldn’t be able to interfere.  Mr. Simoni refused to be part of this, and even tried to convince Ms. Alhadi to return the money she had already received.  She told him: “Why should I, he gave it to me.”   Ms. Alhadi’s scheme soon unraveled.  The Santa Clara Public Guardian filed a petition in state court to put Dr. Marsh under a temporary conservatorship.  The court granted the petition in January 2009 on two grounds.  The first was that Dr. Marsh’s assets were at risk – he had written Ms. Alhadi nearly $1 million in checks and then wrote another five $100,000 checks in October 2008.   The second, and even more devastating ground, was that Ms. Alhadi wasn’t providing even a bare minimum of care.  Ms. Fowle – and the Court again found her testimony entirely credible – looked in Dr. Marsh’s kitchen.  The appliances were old, the sink was old, the cabinets were old, but on top of being old, they were not clean.  He had two little dorm-size refrigerators, and one was on the floor, and it was a freezer.  The other was overfrosted, and there was ice coming out of the door, and it couldn’t be shut, and there was a trail of ants, and the food that was in this freezer that was on the floor was rotten.  She saw greasy pots and pans, broken utensils, and nothing but stale food “and just sparse things.”   She looked into his bedroom and whatever was in the drawers, everything that was close to the front was stained with urine that he had spilled down it because he would either maybe try to get to the bathroom and not make it and then use the urinal that he had resting on his dresser, and nobody ever bothered to clean this.  She looked in the bathroom and found it really filthy.  She testified that she pulled up the bath mat because it was older and that she wanted to get a new one.   “I thought, you know, just to get the bathroom cleaned up.  Underneath it there was gelled mold all under this bath mat, which told me that nobody was also cleaning the bathroom.”   Investigator Fowle also came across some papers.  Ms. Alhadi had handwritten a document for Dr. Marsh to sign.  The document is in broken English, written entirely in Ms. Alhadi’s handwriting, and purports to make “any amount of money given to her as a gift or loan will be void and cancelled after his death.”  The document goes on to say that “I, Arthur Marsh, made this decision in repayment for Angelina Alhadi her excellent care for me for take good care of him every day.” (The Court concluded that this awkward phrasing wasn’t an effort to undo any of the “gifts” Dr. Marsh had given her, but instead an attempt to insulate her from any effort to recoup the money she had received.)   On February 13, 2009, Dr. Marsh died at the age of 93.  His niece, Ms. Person, described the scene at his funeral mass:  Ms. Alhadi, dressed in full hijab and carrying a single red rose, tried to “crawl in the coffin or get inside there and she was screaming.”  This was the last contact Ms. Alhadi had with Dr. Marsh.   In August, 2010 the Arthur J. Marsh Trust (Marsh Trust), which Dr. Marsh had created years before as a substitute for a Will, settled a suit brought against Ms. Alhadi.  The Trust recovered assets and $310,000 in cash.  Ms. Alhad’s million dollar home, with its pool that Dr. Marsh had paid for, was lost to foreclosure.  Ms. Alhadi spent almost all the rest of the money, gave it away, or rendered it untraceable.   On behalf of the Marsh Trust, Santa Clara County filed Forms 1099 for Ms. Alhadi covering 2007 and 2008.  Ms. Alhadi didn’t bring them to her accountant, and the preparer didn’t include the income that they reported on her returns.  The IRS noticed, and wrote Ms. Alhadi to point out her failure.  Ms. Alhadi took this letter back to her tax preparer, who warned Ms. Alhadi that she should file an amended return to include this unreported income.  Ms. Alhadi refused.  Revenue Agent Dan Sutherland later sent a letter to Ms. Alhadi to try to schedule an appointment, but she called back and said she’d hired an attorney.  She refused at that time, however, to provide any information about this lawyer – not even his name.  She never did provide Agent Sutherland with anything, and she failed to cooperate with the examination.   The IRS Commissioner mailed Ms. Alhadi a notice of deficiency in which he asserted deficiencies and penalties on what he determined was a total unreported income of than $1 million.  Her tax case was tried in San Francisco.   The Commissioner introduced bank and credit card records that showed Ms. Alhadi received at least $900,000 during the years 2007 and 2008 that she failed to report on her tax returns.  Ms. Alhadi doesn’t deny receiving this money from Dr. Marsh.  Instead, she argued it should be excluded from her gross income because it was a loan or gift from Dr. Marsh.  She lost.   The Court found that Dr Marsh lent no money to Ms. Alhadi.  He never once referred to the money as anything other than compensation for taking care of him.  He received no certificates evidencing indebtedness or schedules for repayment, and Ms. Alhadi shows no proof of any maturity dates, or interest rates set, or interest paid.  The document that she prepared for him to sign and that Ms. Fowle found, purports to forgive all “loans” after his death – further demonstrating that she never intended to give the money back.    Ms. Alhadi argued in the alternative that the money she received from Dr. Marsh was a gift and so not income.  But to be a gift, the transfer must proceed from a “detached and disinterested generosity, out of affection, respect, admiration, charity or like impulses. Where payment is for past services or an inducement for services in the future, it’s not a gift, and it doesn’t matter that the donor derived no economic benefit from it.   Ms. Alhadi admitted that she earned $37,300 and $72,000 for services she performed for Dr. Marsh in 2007 and 2008.  The Court therefore presumed that the rest of the payments she received from Dr. Marsh weren’t gifts, but rather compensation for services.  And, it had no difficulty, then, in finding that the transfers to Ms. Alhadi weren’t gifts.  But they also weren’t embezzlement.  So what were they?  On this question, the Court agreed with other expert testimony given at trial, which concluded that there was a real, if sad, emotional bond between Dr. Marsh and Ms. Alhadi.  Dr. Marsh wanted to rescue her, wanted to be a good person, and wanted to feel “loved for the rest of his days on earth.”    The Court found that Ms. Alhadi exerted undue influence over Dr. Marsh.  She was in a confidential relationship with Dr. Marsh as his sole caregiver.  He relied on her just to get downstairs, to go to the doctor, to be fed, and even to bathe.  Dr. Marsh was also in extremely poor health; he suffered from heart problems, hearing and vision loss, a broken hip, and dementia, among other handicaps.  Ms. Alhadi knew all this.  She used her relationship with Dr. Marsh to isolate him from his family and financial advisers and to wring money out of him.  She repeatedly prevented Vanguard from contacting him by mail and would interfere when Ms. Person tried to talk with him on the phone.  The resulting isolation and dependence made him even more vulnerable to Ms. Alhadi’s influence.  His multiple cognitive deficits also affected his ability to withstand this influence.  He wasn’t able to do simple computations, he had poor short-term and diminished long-term memory, and he could no longer understand (let alone analyze) his million dollar portfolio.   Ms. Alhadi was a trained caregiver.  Dr. Marsh’s problems were obvious to anyone, but their consequences for his ability to make rational decisions would have been even more obvious to her.  Dr. Marsh’s spending on Ms. Alhadi was uncharacteristic of a man who had spent most of his life fearing the poverty in which he was born.  Inspector Fowle concluded that this wild spending was so abnormal for Dr. Marsh that it was strong evidence that Ms. Alhadi had unduly influenced him.  And Ms. Alhadi’s unending demands on Dr. Marsh – that he pay for a swimming pool, cover her mortgage, name her in his Will, create a separate trust for her benefit, and treat her and her family to a cruise – all support this finding.  Ms. Alhadi preyed on his loneliness.  She would sit and cry in his apartment and lament how she had no money and didn’t know how she was going to survive.  She exploited his forgetfulness.  Sometimes Dr. Marsh thought he was behind on paying her and she didn’t correct him, even though he had actually never fallen behind.  Dr. Marsh’s lack of animus and his failure to experience any deep outrage or disgust at her behavior do not exculpate her.  They merely indicate that she “chose her victim well.”   In the end, Ms. Alhadi was determined to have filed fraudulent income tax returns, to have attempted to conceal it, and to have committed elder abuse.  All of the above facts are true, and were part of a United States Tax Court Decision filed April 21, 2016.   But this real life tragedy could have been avoided, and Dr. Marsh could have enjoyed the fruits of his lifelong work.  Even though his niece, Sheila Person, lived in Seattle, he could have named her his agent for health care purposes.  Sheila could have used that POA to hire a qualified caregiver, and monitor her uncle’s course of medical care.  And Dr. Marsh could have used an independent trustee to hold his assets, pay his bills, and invest and manage his investments.    As attorneys, we serve to protect the interests of our senior citizens who are often preyed upon by those who perceive them as “easy pickings”.  Don’t let it happen to your family members – give us a call to avoid having what happened to Dr. Marsh happen to you, or your loved ones.    

  • About John Maier, Jr.

    Admitted: 1974, Wisconsin

    Professional Webpage: http://www.wisclaw.com/Professional-Profiles/John-L-Maier-Jr...

    Honors and Awards:

    • Corporate Counsel Magazine recently announced John L. Maier, Jr., of Sweet & Maier, S.C., has been placed on its "Top Lawyer's list for 2016.  John was also named as the 2014 Madison, Wisconsin area "Lawyer of the Year" in the field of Land Use & Zoning Law.  Only a single lawyer in each practice area in each community is being honored as the "Lawyer of the Year."  , Lawyer of the Year, Corporate Counsel Magazine, 2013
    • John Maier invited to become a member of The Fellows of the Wisconsin Law Foundation; considered a professional honor and evidence of professional distinction.  The Fellows was created in 1999 as a special means to honor members of the State Bar of Wisconsin who have both achieved significant accomplishments in their career and contributed leadership and service to their communities.  John was honored at a black-tie reception and dinner on November 16, 2010 at the Wisconsin Club Country Club., The Fellow, Wisconsin Law Foundation, 2010
    • Martindale Hubbell AV Rating, Martindale Hubbell , 2009
    • Nominated and selected to serve as an Editor on the Wisconsin Law Review during Third Year of Law School at University of Wisconsin, Madison, Editor, Wisconsin Law Review, 1973
    • Selected for experience in zoning and land use law., Best Attorney in America, Publisher

    Bar/Professional Activity:

    • Estate Planning seminar for members of AARP, held at People's Bank in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, 2013
    • Developed a volunteer program with Walworth County judges for people facing foreclosure on their homes. Enlisted other county attorneys, arranged for mediation training and coordinated with the Community Action groups to assist families facing foreclosure.   Continued work with county housing authority and court to fund and  implement the  program., 2011
    • Estate Planning seminar for local Elkhorn residents.  Discussion on Medicare benefits, codicils, trusts and many other planning tools.  Local chapter of AARP seminar on Estate Planning and Trusts., 2011
    • John has combined  time and talent to produce the chapter entitled "Condominiums and Time Shares" in the latest edition of Wisconsin Practice Series:  Methods of Practice, published by the Milwaukee Bar Association and West Publishing Company.   The book is the work of more than fifty experienced Wisconsin lawyers and is updated on a yearly basis by John., 2010
    • John was choosen to speak at the the National Community Association Lawyers Conference in Tucson, Arizona., 2010
    • WALA/WBA Webinars:  How To Attract New Clients and Personal Career Planning for Attorneys   Speaker at the 31st Annual Connumity Association Law Seminar in Tucson, AZ, 2009

    Pro bono/Community Service:

    • WEN (Wisconsin Entrepreneurs' Network) volunteer.  John has volunteered his time to help support small emerging businesses by providing up to two hours of legal counseling. , 2010
    • Walworth County Foreclosure Mediation program assisting homeowners who are facing foreclosure on their homes.  Families are assigned through the Walworth County court system and our office mediates with the lender for the homeowner.
    • John developed  the Walworth County Foreclosure Mediation Program for the Walworth County Circuit Court and volunteers as a mediator.  This program began and has been running smoothly since November 1, 2010.
    • Cubmaster and WEBLOS Den Leader for Cub ScoutsTreasurer and Member of the Parish Council, St. Edward's Parish (12 years)Religious Education Instructor (High School Age Students)

    Scholarly Lectures and Writings:

    • Attorneys  John L. Maier wrote several chapters in the complete revision of the Wisconsin Condominium Law Handbook, which is a comprehensive resource on Condominium Law, due to be released in fall of 2017.   The Handbook is indispensable for real estate, construction, private and corporate attorneys, and anyone else who needs to know about condominium law in Wisconsin.  Over the past two decades, Wisconsin has seen tremendous growth in the areas of condominium development and ownership.  In an effort to guide practitioners in this fast-growing area of real estate practice, the Wisconsin State Bar published the first edition of the Wisconsin Condominium Law Handbook in 1981.  Since it was first published it has been an indispensable reference tool for Wisconsin’s lawyers.  The State Bar is pleased to continue this tradition with the release of the fifth edition in late August.  The revised edition will once again offer an up-to-date overview of the legal and practical aspects of condominium development and operation in Wisconsin. Lowell E. Sweet, John's partner, who is now retired, was among one of the original editors and authors, and is one of the most experienced and respected practitioners in the area of condominium law in Wisconsin.   John L. Maier, current President of Sweet & Maier, SC, has carried on the writing tradition of his partner Lowell, and edited and authored several chapters in the newest edition., Author, Wisconsin Condominium Law Handbook, Wisconsin State Bar, Attorneys, Construction, Real Estate, 2013
    • Everyone know it's important not to wear striped pants with a plaid jacket, but the same type of dangerous mismatch is often found to be present in the fomative documents for our planned communities.  The language used in municipal zoning and other governmental land use authorizations and approvals must be (but often are not) consistent with condominium declarations, or the covenants, conditions and restrictions which constitute the private organizational documents.  Lack of consistency spells disaster.  This is designed to assist the practitioner to avoid such pitfalls., Guest Speaker, The Proper Integration of Language Used in Zoning Authorizations with Language Used in Condo Declarations or CCR's in Planned Communities, Community Association Institute, 2010

    Representative Clients:

    • Mecum Auto Auction  (International Classic car and boat auction house) Tasch Auto Group     (Family owned auto dealerships in Elkhorn, WI)   Gordy's Lake Front Marine (Winner of the Cobalt boat Top Business Award, and owners of Gordy's Marina, Cobalt Farms, The Boat House Restaurant and The Bait Shop) Library Square Owner's Association and a number of other HOA's   Geneva National Development Coorporation  (Condominiums, hotel, 54 holes of  world class  golf on courses designed by Palmer, Player and Trevino, and gorgeous homes in the beautiful gated community in the town of Lake Geneva) End of the Line Caboose Village M.D. Associates Westgate Condominium Association Indian Ridge Condo Association Home State Bank   Tracy Group. Inc  (Land developer in Southern Wisconsin), Northwestern University Settlement Assoc.,  National Cap & Set Screw Company, Heritage Heights Homeowners Assoc., Lake Geneva Development Project, The Abby Marina LLC, South Shore Custom HOmes, LLC, GRAL, LLC, Meadow Springs - Jefferson, LLC, JKC Properties LLC, Yggdrasil Land Foundation, H.P. Erikson, LLC, New Age Enterprises, LLC, Ashland Meadows Condominium Owners Assoc, Inc. FTG Investments, LLC, Shodeen Family Property CO.,LLC, Kruse Investments, LLC, Polyock Transport LLC,, 2013

    Other Outstanding Achievements:

    •  John has combined  time and talent to produce the chapter entitled "Condominiums and Time Shares" in the latest edition of Wisconsin Practice Series:  Methods of Practice, published by the Milwaukee Bar Association and West Publishing Company. He also has published articles in the local newspaper, writes a bi-weekly column titled "Ask Your Attorney" for area newspapers, and in his spare time he writes children's books, which his wife then illustrates., 2014
    • Corporate Counsel Magazine named John Maier, Jr. "Lawyer of the Year" in Madison, Wisconsin for his work in Zoning and Land Use and will appear in the April 2013 issue in the "Top Lawyers" list.  John has been listed as "Best Attorney in America" every year, and will again appear in Corporate Counsel Magazine in 2016.

    Newsletters:

    • Our firm puts out 4 newsletters each year, as well as a Condo newsletter for our Condo Association clients.   Our quarterly newsletter has general legal information in it, sometimes profiling our clients and their businesses.  Our condo newsletter is geared toward Condo associations and management companies and contains up to date legal information about managing, building, renting, buying, owning and sitting on the board of a condominium association.  Our estate planning newsletter contain legal information everyone needs to know about protecting their hard earned estate.  All 3 can be seen on our website at:  www.wisclaw.com, Legal Bytes, Condo News, Estate Planning, Quarterly General Information

    Educational Background:

    • University of Wisconsin Law School, Madison, Wisconsin - Juris Doctor  Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 171 - B.A., 1973

    Industry Groups

  • Auto Auctions
  • Auto Dealership
  • Boat Auctions
  • Boat Dealership
  • Condominiums
  • Dockominiums
  • Hotel Groups
  • Residential And Commercial Development
  • Office Location for John L. Maier, Jr.

    114 North Church Street
    Elkhorn, WI 53121

     

    John L. Maier, Jr.:

    Last Updated: 6/22/2017

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