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March 30th, 2017  

Hello Everyone, 
This is Attorney Leslie Marenco to bring you our newsletter and thank you for your referrals and continuing business.  

We unfortunately, received some very sad news a few weeks ago that drove home exactly why we do what we do here at the firm.   Our assistant Mary's husband, Tracy Ellington passed away after suffering a sudden and massive heart attack. He was only 49 years old.   This difficult loss has been completely  devastating  for her and her family.   His death was totally  unexpected  -  especially considering how young and seemingly healthy he was.  

The truth of the matter is that tomorrow is promised to NO ONE. The most loving thing we can do for our families is to have plans in place that ensure they will be taken care of if something does happen. The last thing you want is for your family to be scrambling to clean up a financial and legal mess while they are still trying to cope with your loss. 

For all of our wonderful clients, friends, and  colleagues  who have inquired as to how you can help Mary and her family, she has started a page to support the goal of taking his remains back to his home state of South Carolina to be laid to rest.  Click Here to get routed to Tracy's Page.  

A BIG WARM HEARTFELT "thanks" from Mary and her family to those who have already donated. Your support means a lot.

As always, if you have anything in particular you would like me to write about please do not hesitate to  contact  Yours Truly  (just hit reply) or my  partners,    Manny Rodriguez, and Jason Warshofsky,  and let us know!  

Below you can find our Articles: 
 
Estate Planning Article:  
Sofia Vergara is Now Being SUED on Behalf of Her Own EMBRYOS! 

International Estate Planning Article
Planning is even More Crucial when you own Foreign Property 

Probate Article:
Don't Forget about the Safety Deposit Box 

Have a great rest of your week!

Leslie V. Marenco, Esq. 
Estate Planning Article:


Sofia Vergara is Now Being SUED on Behalf of Her Own EMBRYOS! 
It is safe to say the Embryo Lawsuit Between Sofia Vergara, Nick Loeb, & Now a Third-Party Trust has Gotten Out Of Hand...
 
Although I have been following this case for some time, I wasn't going to write about it here because the estate planning implications were a little tenuous... until now! Oh my, how quickly things change! 

Since this lawsuit started, it was ugly.  Then, Sofia Vergara and Nick Loeb moved well past ugly in their courtroom battle that is really a case about contract validity and interpretation but seemingly also addresses views about the right to potential life itself. Vergara and Loeb's disagreement teaches an important lesson for anyone considering In Vitro Fertilization or other means of assisted reproductive technology - but there's a greater lesson that most attorneys are already aware of:  when the courtroom is the backdrop for love turned to hate (and in addition a sensitive and politicized topic) things can rapidly spiral out of control - and they totally HAVE. 

But first, some background...

In happier times (circa 2013), Vergara and Loeb were still in love and tried to use In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) to conceive a child.  Their first efforts failed when two prior embryos did not successfully implant.  Vergara and Loeb tried a second time, again leading to the creation of two viable embryos, but before the new embryos could be implanted, the couple called off their engagement.

At the start of the IVF process, Vergara and  Loeb both signed a form directive from the medical facility.  This form included an agreement to "declare our intentions and desires" with different options for what would happen to the embryos if not implanted. The couple chose to allow the embryos to thaw if one or both of them passed away.  By thawing, the directive indicates, the embryos would be destroyed.  The directive said that unless both parents mutually agreed to use the embryos, either for implantation or otherwise, they would remain frozen.  They can only be destroyed if both Vergara and Loeb agree, or when one of them dies.

Legal Side Note:
As a "directive" the document serves a similar purpose to a living will, advance directive, or other end-of-life document that many people incorporate as part of thorough estate planning when addressing the difficult decisions about when to refuse life-sustaining treatment when there is no quality of life.  Just like end-of-life planning documents, no one should ever sign a directive like this unless he or she is comfortable with the implications. Couples should carefully think it through ahead of time - no one wants to make a decision based on a rushed and awkward conversation in a medical office when a form directive is placed down on the table.  If there any questions or when couples cannot agree what should happen, they should immediately seek the advice of an attorney.

Of course, after the breakup the former couple is not able to agree to anything regarding the embryos and Loeb filed the lawsuit in 2015. Sofia Vergara's position is that she is content to allow the embryos to remain frozen, and she has no desire for a child with Nick Loeb.   Loeb contends that he is strongly pro-life and says he is fighting for the embryos' right to be born.  Vergara is calling total BS and saying this is all for revenge and publicity!
Loeb claims ABUSE by Vergara...  
The Vergara legal team filed a motion asking for the judge to dismiss the case because the directive form containing the agreement about what would happen to the embryos if not implanted is clear.  Loeb argues that the agreement should not be binding, in part because he contends that he only signed it because Vergara pressured and "bullied" him into doing so.  He claims that the reason that he signed it was because Vergara "began vigorously berating him" at the medical office, which was common in their relationship.  Loeb alleges Vergara was physically, emotionally, and mentally abusive towards him, and he only signed the directive to "avoid further abuse."  Loeb even gave details, contending that Sofia Vergara had, at times, punched him in the face, kicked him, bullied him, and called him names such as "loser" and "worthless."  

Vergara denies those accusations and says she took the matter very seriously when she signed the agreement.  It is troubling that  Loeb - the wealthy descendant of the Loeb and Lehman families, who both founded successful financial firms - would turn to these types of accusations to try to convince a court that he was coerced into signing the directive.  For the record, Vergara is five feet seven inches tall, and weighs about 120lbs while Loeb is six foot four!!

Judge Rules Prior Abortions are Relevant... 
The dispute took an interesting turn late last year when Vergara's lawyers demanded to know the identity of two women whom Loeb admitted had abortions after they each conceived a child with him.  Since these abortions happened approximately twenty years ago Loeb believes this should have nothing to do with the current lawsuit because he developed his pro-life beliefs after that time in his life.   Vergara's lawyers want to depose the two women to expose what they contend is Loeb's insincere beliefs.     Obviously that may be the legal justification but Vergara's attorneys have pushed for these depositions at least in part to put pressure on Loeb... now, how is that for bullying!?   The California judge ruled that Vergara's lawyers COULD depose the two women who allegedly had the abortions with Loeb's approval and consent and Loeb had to reveal their identities or be subject to contempt.  

Loeb's legal team filed an emergency appeal of the ruling, but the appeal was denied. Loeb made a statement declaring that that he will go to jail rather than disclose the names of the two women, whom he believes have a right to remain private and not be dragged into this public fight.  This was scheduled to proceed to a very messy trial in January when Loeb dropped the case shortly thereafter. But Vergara's victory celebration was short lived folks! 

Now, a Seemingly Unrelated Third Party Trust Sues Vergara...
This case now has taken a bizarre twist that involves a third party trust suing Vergara on behalf of the unborn embryos themselves!   I swear...  I can't make this stuff up!  
A party, not directly related to either of them (that we know of, but I wouldn't rule out Loeb's  involvement ), has now filed a lawsuit in Louisiana to have the embryos implanted in a surrogate and brought to term.  The Lawsuit purports to be brought by the embryos themselves.  

The petition, filed in Jefferson Parish Louisiana lists three plaintiffs: two embryos, one named Isabella and one named Emma (yes, they were given names), and Mr. James Charbonnet, a New Orleans resident with no clear ties to Vergara  or  Loeb.     The new lawsuit argues that the embryos are being deprived of their inheritance from a trust by not being born because the trust was created to provide for their (the embryos') health, education, maintenance, and support.  The Louisiana case doesn't name Loeb himself but asks that the embryos be transferred to Loeb so that they can be born and "receive their inheritance."

I hate to leave you all in suspense, but tune in next month for the rest of this story... this is going to get dicey! 

Have an Idea for an Article? Shoot me an email  at:  Marenco@MWPRMLaw.com (Just Hit Reply)

International Estate Planning/Tax Article

Planning is Even More Crucial When You Own Foreign Property!

Manuel A. Rodriguez, Esq. CPA

For lots of families in Miami and South Florida foreign property issues are a significant concern, we are called the gateway to Latin America for a reason.  So what do you have to do if you own property that is located in another country? What additional steps will you have to take?   Estate and succession plans for people who own foreign property can be much more complicated than those created by people who do not have such assets. Regardless of where your property is located, there are some key issues you'll have to consider.

The big wild card with any foreign property issue is what law applies. In general, each country will have its own laws that apply to property located within its borders. Those laws may or may not be affected by international treaties that apply to foreign nationals who own that property, or may they may not. Generally speaking, most people who own property in a foreign country will have to contact an attorney who practices in that jurisdiction. Your own estate planning attorney can coordinate with such an attorney to ensure that your plan is complete.

One of the most important issues to consider when crafting an estate plan is determining how your foreign property will be treated as an inheritance. For example, some nations, such as France, operate on a civil law system. In such countries, a decedent's legally recognized heirs automatically inherit the property upon the owner's death.   In other situations, a country may recognize the validity of an international will, one drawn in accordance with the terms of the Uniform International Wills Act. This act gives nations the ability to legally recognize the validity of a will created by someone who is not a citizen of that nation, but who owns property there in. However, only a minority of states have adopted this act and Florida is not one of them.

Another important issue with foreign property estate plans comes with taxes. Different countries treat estate, inheritance, property, and income taxes differently, and often apply different rules to non-citizen or non-resident property owners. You may also face tax issues because you are an American citizen who owns foreign property.
For example, if you are a United States citizen who owns property in France, the United States may tax that property as a part of your estate. You may also have to pay French taxes on that property, especially if it is real estate. Further, French law imposes higher taxes on property transferred from an estate to more distant relatives, such as a cousin. 

If there is one lesson to take away from this discussion, it's this: talk to your lawyer. Foreign property estate planning issues can be complicated, and you need legal advice if you want to plan appropriately.  Have Questions? Call us! We don't bite!

Call us at 305.707.7126 or shoot me an email  at:  Rodriguez@MWPRMLaw.com

 Probate

Don't Forget the Safe Deposit Box!
Jason Warshofsky, LLM (Tax)
 
After meeting with us, clients often give much thought and effort to avoiding probate through titling, beneficiary designations and the use of revocable trusts. Sometimes, however, an asset or two are left out, thereby triggering probate. One example of forgotten assets are those inside a safe deposit box.  So, after a loved one passes away, how do you get to the assets in the box?  
 
When someone dies with a safe deposit box in a Florida bank, there are many rules to follow. The probate lawyer in Florida is often called on to assist gaining access to open the safe deposit box when someone dies. 

If the deceased person is the only renter or lessee of the box, then it might take a court order to open the box. Even if another person is named in the box lease, Florida laws and rules require that certain additional persons be present for the box opening, and an inventory of the box contents must be filed with the court within 10 days.

Why all the complexity? To safeguard the rights of the deceased person's creditors and heirs. Just because someone is named on a bank safety deposit box lease as a signer does not mean that person owns what's in the box. Sure, it could be evidence of ownership, but just because your father put your name on the box does not mean he meant to give you everything in the box.    He might have put your name on the box lease just so you can store something in there too.  

So, w ho "owns" what's in the box? If the box was leased only to the deceased person, then the decedent's estate owns the contents of the safe deposit box. The estate's personal representative (also called PR or executor) will be able to open the box (in the presence of certain persons) and remove the contents, file an inventory with the court, and deal with the contents as assets of the estate.  Some creditors of the estate are entitled to be paid, so they will be interested in what's in the box. Beneficiaries of the estate would also be entitled to the rest of the contents of the box, subject to the personal representative using the box contents to pay fees and expenses of estate administration, which actually have priority over all others, including creditors.
So, opening a safe deposit box in Florida for someone who has died is not as simple as it sounds. We can assist you when opening a safe deposit box in a Florida bank in compliance with the Florida Probate Code and Florida Probate Rules.

Call us at 305.707.7126 or shoot me an email  at:  Warshofsky@MWPRMLaw.com

Let's Catch Up!  
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Let's Catch UP!!

 EMAIL ME:   Marenco@MWPRMLaw.com 
Thank You For Your Referrals!  
We Want to Give a 
Very Special
"Thank You"   to

Joy Manson, 
Tanya Garcia,
Sylvia Fernandez, Esq.,
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John G., Esq.
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We appreciate your ongoing referrals and  Trust in us! =)
 
Where You Can Find Me:
T his Month there are some events going on around town that I plan to Attend!

COME MINGLE & NETWORK !

What ? When? Where?
WHAT: Coral Gables Chamber, Trustee Reception
WHEN: Wednesday,  April 12th, 5:30pm
WHERE:    5555 Ponce De Leon Blvd. 3rd Floor Terrace
_______________________________________________
WHAT:  Ser & Associates end of the First Quarter Networker
WHEN: Tuesday  April 11th, at 5:30pm
WHERE:  2100 Ponce De Leon Blvd., Coral Gables
_______________________________________________
WHAT: Kristi House  6th Annual Breaking the Silence Luncheon
WHEN:   Wednesday,  April 19th, 11:30am
WHERE:  Jungle Island, Treetop Ballroom
_______________________________________________
WHAT: Women In Financial Services, Cultural Day!
WHEN:  Friday, April 21st - 10am   
WHERE:  Vizcaya,  3251 S Miami Ave, Miami, FL 33129

The Funnies!!