AABANY Presents: Avoiding Real Property Disputes in Divorce Matters In the Aftermath of COVID-19

On June 25, AABANY presented a CLE Program on divorce property disputes in the context of COVID-19, featuring panelists from practitioners in matrimonial law and real estate law. The panel outlined influences of the pandemic upon real property disputes in divorce proceedings, and recounted actual cases to demonstrate. Speakers included Margaret Ling, Senior Counsel at Big Apple Abstract Corp. and Co-Chair of the AABANY Real Estate Committee; Derrick Rubin, trial attorney associate at Wisselman, Harounian & Associates; Jerome Wisselman, Managing Partner at Wisselman, Harounian & Associates; and Irene Angelakis, Founding Owner at Law Offices of Irene Angelakis. 

Derrick Rubin began by discussing the basic considerations of property disputes. Family homes are typically the largest asset, and disputes center around who gets the house, whether or not to sell, or if one spouse should buy out another. Another necessary consideration is the legal theory of equitable distribution, which emphasizes a fair rather than equal distribution of property on the basis of various factors. Some examples include how long the parties were married, their individual needs, and the financial contribution each party made during the marriage.

Margaret Ling then outlined examples from past cases to demonstrate the benefits of in-person dealings and how remote demands of COVID-19 impose challenges. In a Chase Bank refinance transaction, a couple sought a $2 million refinance on their condo. However, the lawyer noticed the husband seemed nervous, the wife was fidgeting, and her identification appeared fake. Upon further inquiry, it was discovered that the husband was in the midst of a divorce and had brought his girlfriend in an attempt to make property adjustments while his wife was traveling — not permitted under domestic relations law which forbids property adjustments without spousal approval. Today, legal transactions that depend upon accurate identification must come up with new solutions. 

Irene Angelakis continued the discussion with tips on how to avoid disputes during the pandemic and also raised ethical considerations. She talked about taking into account pandemic-induced income changes, a common circumstance today, by giving parties more realistic timelines to decide on refinancing. Another involved taking social distancing precautions if both parties decide to sell the house. The most important takeaway is that both parties should try to settle property disputes because the courts and trials are limited options during COVID-19. Irene concluded with the topic of ethics by discussing disclosure requirements, matrimonial retainer agreements, fee disputes and escrow. 

A final topic explored by Jerome Wisselman was asset protection. Asset protection, through prenuptial and post-nuptial agreements, are preventative legal measures taken to avoid property disputes during divorce. Provision of detailed financial statements by both parties, addressing potential future investment returns, and deciding on whether retirement benefits will be separate or together, are necessary for the creation of a fair and accurate asset protection agreement. The main takeaway is that current divorce property disputes that have been further complicated by COVID-19 circumstances may have been avoided if more asset protection agreements existed.

Thank you to all the panelists for their valuable time and insights, and thanks to the Real Estate Committee for organizing this timely and informative CLE program. To view the recording of the CLE, click on the image at the top. If you would like to learn more about AABANY’s Real Estate Committee, click here: https://www.aabany.org/page/120

AABANY CLE: Selling and Purchasing Real Property from an Estate

On Wednesday, April 3, 2019, Margaret Ling, AABANY Development Director and Real Estate Committee Co-Chair, and Pauline Yeung-Ha, Pro Bono Committee Co-Chair, presented a CLE and networking event entitled “Selling and Purchasing Real Property from an Estate.” The event was hosted by Flushing Bank at their Astoria branch and was co-sponsored by AABANY, KALAGNY, and Big Apple Abstract Corp.

Margaret and Pauline discussed the importance of doing your due diligence when selling or purchasing real property from an estate. They shared horror stories of clients trying to cut corners and scam the system. One story involved a separated husband and wife, where the wife claimed that the husband had passed away and tried to rush the closing on the sale of their house. After some investigation, it was discovered that the husband was alive and well in Greece. The moral of the story was that as real estate attorneys it is imperative to not blindly trust surrogates and extremely important to demand proof of death to prevent future liability and to protect your license.

Margaret and Pauline also discussed the tax implications and other liabilities that accompany the different types of estate structures, which included Joint Tenancy, Tenants in Common, Tenants by the Entirety, Life Estates, and Trusts. They advised that practitioners can save themselves a lot of trouble by taking the time to do their due diligence and by speaking to title companies.

We thank Flushing Bank and its staff for hosting the CLE panel for the evening. Thanks also to the speakers and everyone that attended. One CLE credit in the area of professional practice was awarded to attendees. To learn more about the Real Estate Committee, go to https://www.aabany.org/page/120.

Assuming you’re a fully paid-up member of the Asian American Bar Association of New York, I invite you to register for our new eight-week, sixteen-hour continuing legal education course on real estate bankruptcy. As usual, tuition is free (in part due to the support of the ABA’s Real Property Trust and Estate Law Section and First American Title Insurance Company of New York).

We start on Monday evening, January 9, 2012 at 6:30 PM. We’ll continue on Monday evenings from 6:30 PM through 8:55 PM, but we won’t meet on January 16, 2012 (Dr. M. L. King Day) or February 20, 2012 (Presidents’ Day).

The course is designed to help you open the door to new opportunities. If you think you’re not ready to represent owners and tenants of distressed property and lenders holding mortgages on distressed property, we’d like to help you get there. With foreclosed properties proliferating in New York’s diverse communities, the need for lawyers with a working knowledge of real estate as well as the Bankruptcy Code is bound to expand. Yet, despite the impact of bad economic times, many of you have told me that you shy away from bankruptcy-related matters. By teaching you the basic tools you need to get started, we hope to help you build your practice and serve the communities.

I urge you to reserve a seat quickly. Our last five courses were oversubscribed in one week. So, if you’re ready to commit yourself to attend at least six of our eight sessions, please act quickly. All you need to do is send me an e-mail message (emanuelhalper@gmail.com) with your contact info.

If you attend all eight sessions, we anticipate that you’ll earn 19.2 CLE credits.

Our classroom will be the Village Room at First American Title Insurance Company of New York. The address is 633 Third Avenue. It’s between 40th and 41st Streets.

Here’s table listing the sessions and the topic for each.

Session/Date/Topic
1) January 9, 2012 The Structure of the Bankruptcy Code
2) January 23, 2012 Pre-Bankruptcy Planning and Commencement of a Case
3) January 30, 2012 Rights of Mortgagors and Mortgagees Under Chapter 7
4) February 6, 2012 How Chapter 13 Works
5) February 13, 2012 Rights of Mortgagors and Mortgagees Under Chapter 11
6) February 27, 2012 Avoidance Actions and Bankruptcy Remote Structuring
7) March 5, 2012 Unexpired Leases and Executory Contracts
8) March 12, 2012 Wrap-Up, Review, and Student Panel

Each session will include a networking coffee break to allow you to meet and get to know your fellow students. We’ll use this time to eat, gossip, and exchange business cards. By the way, the coffee and snacks are free also. We will provide written materials for each session (without charge) and send them to you by e-mail. Reading them before class will enhance your knowledge and enjoyment.

From our good friend Emanuel Halper.  Thanks to the ABA’s Real Property Trust and Estate Law Section and First American Title Insurance Company of New York for helping to make this FREE CLE program possible.  Current AABANY members should contact Manny directly to register.