Epic Palm Beach divorce starts Monday; will divide real estate empire

Palm Beacher Burt Handelsman testifies in Palm Beach County Circuit Court on June 6, 2017 in a preliminary hearing to his divorce trial from Lovey Handelsman. The trial, which starts Monday, Feb. 5, 2018, will divide a real estate empire worth $500 million.(Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

WEST PALM BEACH —

The breakup of one of the biggest real estate empires in Palm Beach County, featuring some of the toniest shops on Worth Avenue, gets underway Monday in Palm Beach County Circuit Court.

The month-long trial that will unfold before Circuit Judge Scott Suskauer will turn on dueling claims of the type of double-dealing, plundering and lying that punctuates many business disputes.

But the complex case isn’t purely a business feud. It’s a divorce.

After nearly seven decades of marriage, 89-year-old Lucille “Lovey” Handelsman set the wheels in motion for the epic battle by deciding she doesn’t want to be married to her 90-year-old husband, Burt, any more.

+ Palm Beacher Lucille ‘Lovey’ Handelsman sits in Palm Beach County Circuit Court on June 6, 2017 in a preliminary hearing to

Her decision, supported by the couple’s three adult children, put in play the $500 million-plus real estate fortune the Palm Beach couple began building in the 1950s from their kitchen table in Brooklyn, N.Y. Besides the Palm Beach shops, their real estate holdings reach from Key West to upstate New York, with restaurants in Delray Beach and office buildings in West Palm Beach.

While tired of Burt’s verbal abuse, Lovey claims it was infidelity that spurred her to act. She contends that Burt not only fell in love with another woman, but he conspired with his alleged paramour — Fort Lauderdale attorney Jane Rankin — to siphon assets that rightfully belonged to her, her children and grandchildren.

Burt disputes Lovey’s characterization of his relationship with the 62-year-old Rankin. But the longtime family legal advisor, who often vacationed with the Handelsmans along with her husband, now figures prominently in the divorce.

In November, for instance, Suskauer ruled that Burt enlisted Rankin’s help to commit a “fraud on the court” by lying about the so-called discovery of a falsified document that Burt tried to use to strip his children of control of vast swaths of the empire.

“Burt now admits that Rankin’s portion of their coordinated story was materially inaccurate … (reinforcing) the court’s conclusion that the entire tale was an intentional fraud on the court,” Suskauer wrote in a blistering opinion.

+ Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Scott Suskauer will preside over the Handelsman divorce trial, which starts Monday, Feb. 5, 2018. (Lannis

Frustrated by the nonstop warfare, Suskauer for months has pleaded with the couple and their children to resolve their differences and divide their vast holdings without his help. But little progress has been made. In court papers filed last week, the venom was palpable.

“Burt is a classic megalomaniac,” wrote attorney Jeff Fisher, who is representing the couple’s children in their fight to make sure their father has no claim to property they now control from offices in White Plains, N.Y. “The adult children hope to see Burt crumble,” countered attorney Alan Kluger, who represents Burt.

While Lovey’s attorney, Joel Weissman, also had choice words for Burt, he is asking Suskauer on the opening day of trial to declare the marriage irretrievably broken. Then, he said, Suskauer can spend the next four weeks hearing testimony from real estate experts, accountants and appraisers to help him decide who should get what property, along with doling out personal items, including the couple’s much-fought-over shaving mug collection, valued at $1 million.

Lovey, who is crippled by arthritis and confined to a wheelchair, is generally in good health. But, at her age, time is of the essence, Weissman said. If the marriage dies before Lovey, under Florida law, she would be entitled to 50 percent of the assets, which she plans to pass on to her children and grandchildren. If Lovey dies before Suskauer signs off on the divorce, her share could fall to 30 percent, Weissman has said.

“The wife implores the court … to pronounce the parties’ marriage is irretrievably broken in order to assure the Wife her equitable distribution will not be jeopardized by any untimely death or illness,” Weissman wrote, repeating a request Suskauer has rejected before.

The term “equitable distribution” is the legal standard for how assets are divided in any divorce. But in this one, the attorneys and their clients are in vast disagreement about what it means. Further, each accuses the other of low-balling the value of the property they want in a ploy to get more than they deserve.

The Handelsmans’ Palm Beach County properties

Here are the locations of Burt and Lucille ‘Lovey’ Handelsman’s holdings in Palm Beach County, according to the Property Appraiser’s Jan. 1, 2017 valuation. They are valued at $160 million. (Zoom out to see the Handelsmans’ other properties in Lantana, West Palm Beach and Delray Beach.)

All sides agree that even if they all could agree on the values of scores of pieces of property, division will be complicated because in many cases ownership is split among the children, Lovey, Burt and others. The children and Lovey have insisted they won’t own property with Burt. There also are mortgages and other legal entanglements that have to be sorted out.

Fisher said an accountant Lovey has hired figured out a way to divide the property so she would end up with $69 million worth of real estate, Burt would end up with $68 million and the children would control the remaining property, which they have managed for years.

Since Burt long ago moved his office to Worth Avenue and focuses on the real estate jewels that are rented to various high-end retailers, such as Giorgio’s, Brooks Brothers, Ralph Lauren and Jimmy Choo, he could remain in control of most of that property, Fisher suggested. The children, meanwhile, are more interested in continuing their oversight of property in New York state, Delray Beach, West Palm Beach and Key West, where they own the property that is home to the famous Hog’s Breath Saloon.

+ Boxes of legal files sit stacked in a Palm Beach County courtroom June 6, 2017 during a hearing in the Handelsman

Lovey, Weissman said, should also be awarded the couple’s three-room apartment above shops on Worth Avenue, the family home in White Plains, N.Y., and a vacation home in the Catskills.

Contesting Lovey’s experts with experts of his own, Burt opposes many of the proposed land swaps. He has already filed separate lawsuits against his children, claiming they stole property from him.

Noting that it will be difficult to negotiate a 50-50 split, Kluger said Suskauer should keep in mind that Burt was the mastermind of the empire so should reap more reward — a contention both Fisher and Weissman vehemently dispute.

In making their cases, both sides turned to sports metaphors in last week’s filings.

To counter Burt’s claims that he built the real estate empire alone, Lovey’s lawyer invoked famed University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban and Miami Heat basketball coach Eric Spoelstra.

“If Nick Saban or Eric Spoelstra claimed that a championship victory was solely the result of their great coaching and had nothing to do with their ‘team,’ they would be the subject of scorn and ridicule and probably fired,” Fisher wrote. “Burt Handelsman shamelessly claims that the entire empire is his creation giving no credit to the decades of work by his wife, children and in-laws.”

Burt’s lawyer compared his client to Dorando Pietri, an obscure Italian runner who overcame paralyzing fatigue to win the marathon in the 1908 London Olympics.

“Like Dorando, Burt has shocked the world as well. … Like Dorando, Burt was unknown in his sector, but Burt was determined to race to victory,” Kluger wrote. “Like Dorando, Burt deserves to finish with dignity and grace.”

But in his lengthy description of Dorando’s historic achievement, Kluger failed to mention one thing: Dorando was ultimately stripped of his medal because he was assisted across the finish line.

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Palm Beach, Florida, Luxury Market Ended 2017 on High Note

Worth Avenue in Palm Beach, Florida

Prices for luxury property in Palm Beach, Florida, soared during the last three months of 2017, according to a Douglas Elliman report released Thursday.

Luxury condos and single-family homes—defined by Douglas Elliman as the top 10% of sales— in the oceanfront market had a median sales price of $15.21 million, the highest of the eight South Florida areas analyzed in the report. The figure was a 97.6% rise from the third quarter of 2017 and a surge of 162.4% from the same period last year. The report did not separate the prices for luxury condos and luxury single-family homes in Palm Beach.

“The final quarter of 2017 for Palm Beach was the strongest quarter for that market in 2017,” Jonathan Miller, chief executive of appraisal firm Miller Samuel and author of the report, told Mansion Global.

“The high-end market woke up,” Mr. Miller said. “The reason was not so much that buyers returned but that sellers got in sync with actual market conditions.”

The uptick in luxury activity is not unique to Palm Beach, Mr. Miller said. The same is being seen in other markets around the country, like Manhattan and Greenwich, Connecticut. Though it is “much more in your face in Palm Beach,” he said.

The findings were echoed by Corcoran’s Palm Beach market report for the fourth quarter, also released Thursday, which found that the median closed sales price of all single-family homes in the South Florida enclave rose 92% compared to a year ago, with all properties sold at or above $2.4 million. The report did not highlight luxury.

Other South Florida markets experienced a boost, too.

The median price of luxury single-family homes in the city of Boca Raton—north of Miami—reached $2 million in the fourth quarter of 2017, an increase of 52.7% year-on-year, and 44.9% from the previous quarter, according to the Douglas Elliman report.

In Wellington, west of Palm Beach, the median price of luxury condominiums was up 27.8% year-on-year and 29% from quarter three, to $677,500, the report said. Mainland Miami saw luxury condo prices rise too, up to $845,000, an increase of 30.5% from 2016 and up 22.2% from quarter three 2017.

Not all South Florida markets experienced the surge though. While luxury single-family homes in Boca Raton saw prices increase, luxury condos in the area saw median prices fall 25% from the same period in 2016 and down 8.3% from quarter three, to $825,000, according to the report. Luxury single-family homes in Jupiter fell 12.4% year-on-year to $1.55 million, but rose 3.7% from quarter three.

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Buying West Palm Beach FL Real Estate? This Is How You Do It

For first-time house buyers, few things are as intimidating and exciting as owning your first piece of property. And even though it is a very liberating feeling, it comes with heavy financial responsibility and dedication. So, before you buy any West Palm Beach FL real estate, keep the following in mind.

1. Can You Stick To A Budget?

If you know yourself to be a loose cannon with money, either hire somebody who can limit you, or marry someone who will do it for free. Either way, house hunting means sticking to your budget, even when the agent is very persistent about the once in a lifetime offer.

Always remember that payments on a house go on for a very long time, and it’s a monthly installment you have to be able to afford.

2. Do You Have The Right House?

While West Palm Beach FL real estate is always a good investment choice, not every home is going to serve the purpose you need it to. Thus, you want to make sure it has enough bedrooms and space or does it come with that swimming pool you desperately want?

If you are going to buy a home, get one you really like and that fits in with your lifestyle.

3. Have All The Inspections Been Done?

Faulty wiring, pest infestations, these are all things you will only have a problem with once you start living in your new home. And that’s why you want to have it checked before you send over any money.

Get professionals to clear the house first. This way you’ll know future problems are new and, hopefully, won’t cause too much damage.

Yes, you are definitely choosing the right area to buy your home. It’s just a matter of working out the details and moving in.

The Reason That So Many Americans Are Migrating To Florida

Florida is known for a few things, but many are simply unaware of why so many Americans are choosing to pick up and move everything they can fit in a trailer to this state. The fact is that beyond common knowledge, Florida offers a lot that most other states simply don’t. If you have been considering making a move or are simply interested in why your friends have chosen Florida as their new home, this article is for you.

The most significant reason that most Americans have for moving their lives to this state is that they do not have an income tax. This seems to be especially true for those that are raising a family or are looking for a comfortable place to retire. Income taxes can greatly hamper a person or family’s net income. The fact that this state does not have any at all can leave a great deal more in the pockets of those that might struggle otherwise or are simply looking to live a higher quality of life.

In addition to there not being an income tax, the fact that housing options are extremely affordable is very attractive. Depending on where you are from, you may be able to find a home of the same size as you have now for half or even a third of the cost that you are used to. Reducing your living costs to such a degree leaves a lot more in your pocket to save for your retirement, children’s educations and reduces the drainage from your retirement fund. The reality is that there is no reason to pay more to live than you have to.

Finally, the weather in Florida is a very positive draw for those that decide to move there. Those that are from Northern states note that they have had their fill of months that consist of heavy snow, sub-zero temperatures and cloudy skies. Even in the northern regions of Florida it rarely dips below freezing and in the southern regions it mimics what most consider to be summer year round.

Florida is more than just beaches and tourist attractions. For this reason people are migrating there in great numbers. Whether it be to enjoy the lower cost of living or the pleasant weather, they have decided to make a huge change. If you have been considering a new home this may just be the place for you.

The Reasons You Should Visit Florida

When it comes to vacation locations, Florida is always going to be on the radar. There are more locations within the state to enjoy your vacation than you could shake a stick at. It doesn’t matter if you are talking about the breathtaking views of the ocean or if you plan on spending some time in the Everglades, there is plenty to do for you and your entire family.

Of course, Florida is not only a vacation location, it is also an excellent place to put down roots as well. Some people visit Florida on an annual basis as snowbirds, staying during the wintertime and enjoying the warm weather. Other people may retire to the state, and that certainly is a popular option. In any case, you have your choice of locations to live, from the small town in the center of the state to the hustle and bustle of the paradise in South Florida.

Regardless of whether you want to visit the state temporarily or if you live in Florida, there are some attractions that should not be missed. In fact, those who live in the state could visit all of those areas and spend a lifetime traveling without ever leaving its borders. Here is a couple of the grander attractions that you may want to consider.

Orlando – As far as vacation locations are concerned, Orlando is probably at the top of any list. It offers almost anything that a person could want when they are on vacation, regardless of whether they are there by themselves or with the family. Not only does Orlando house some of the top theme parks in the world, including Walt Disney World, but it also offers all of the other amenities that you could want out of a vacation location.

The Florida Keys – In the southern part of the state of Florida you have the keys, and they are more than worth the visit. The keys offer simple living, peaceful vacations and plenty of beautiful beaches. Take your time and travel from one key to the next, exploring everything from Key West to Key Largo.

These are only a couple of the many options available for Florida visitors and for those who live in the state. It certainly is a beautiful location and it is unique as far as the United States is concerned. Take some time to visit Florida and you may never want to leave again.

The Most Popular Tourist Attractions Of Florida

1 – The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter

Located in Orlando, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is an amazing getaway for fans of the world famous fictitious wizard. There are a lot of rides, restaurants, shops, entertainment events, and intricate recreations of related architecture and props that you’ll likely be familiar with from the book series and corresponding movie adaptations alike. The great thing is that this is a fun enough attraction for family members and friends that aren’t as familiar with all of that to still enjoy themselves immensely.

2 – Universal Islands Of Adventure

Another of the big Orlando, FL attractions is the Universal Islands of Adventure. This isn’t the sort of place you want to go to without a lot of cash to spend, but that’s true of most parks of this nature. The best thing about this particular park is that it often updates, much more so than some others. You can make this an annual stop and likely see something new every single time. This is the main park that the Harry Potter attraction is part of, so you can easily hit everything over a several day periods.

3 – Discovery Cove

For those of you that want to experience some interesting sea life and tons of lush, gorgeous tropical scenery, Discovery Cove in Orlando is a must. From dolphins to stingrays and sharks, all of the most famous sea animals can be observed here, and there’s plenty more to do as well, making it far greater than your run of the mill aquarium style experience. You can swim with dolphins here, which is easily the sort of uplifting adventure that will stick with you forever. This is an easy choice for families that are sick of run of the mill theme parks and the like.

4 – Walt Disney World

And for those that aren’t, it doesn’t get much better than Walt Disney World. Also located around the Orlando area, Disney World is a group of parks all rolled into one. You can get park hopper passes and shift between them, or merely stay several days and spend each one in a particular corner. Between the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and the Epcot Center, there’s quite a lot to do here. It’s best to save up and stay on one of the resort’s hotels so you can come and go as you please, preferably within in a several days to a week long span.

Reasons To Visit Florida

The State of Florida is the fourth most populous state in the US and there is a reason it is known as the Sunshine State as people from all over the country come here to enjoy the luxuries it has to offer. If you are still wondering why you need to visit Florida, read the article below to find out various reasons people chose to vacation in Florida.

If you want to go shopping, you will find all the options ranging from upscale shops to popular outlets within your budget. There are a lot of shopping malls doting the landscape of the state which means you will be spoilt for choice. You will be able to find all the brands that you want in many malls across the state in various cities including Orlando, Florida City and Naples among others. If you’re interested in nightlife, Miami Beach is one of the most popular spots in the state for enjoying the nightlife. There are also some other places where you can enjoy the pleasures of nightlife and party like it’s New Year each night.

There are hundreds of museums and entertainment venues on both the coasts as well as everywhere in between. You can easily get tickets for Broadway-style shows, rock concerts, dinner theater and various other such things in almost all the major cities in the state. There are also some amazing art museums, history museums as well as science and nature museums in various cities around the state. In other words, Florida has a rich history and you will enjoy every single moment you spend in the state on your vacation.

There are more than ten national parks in the state and it will be enjoyable for you to explore these national parks and monuments. The Everglades National Park is a must see as this national park is home to many rare species of plants, birds and animals. There are also some state parks where you can experience diverse natural area full of pinelands and various other things.

Overall, there are some things to see and explore in the state of Florida. This is the reason that millions of people from all over the country come to this state to enjoy the natural pleasures the state has to offer. You can easily find affordable accommodation in various cities throughout the state if you want to spend your vacation days here.