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Divorce of Local Real Estate Scions Becomes a Battle over Division of Massive Estate

After a nearly-70-year-long union, West Palm Beach real estate moguls Burt and Lucille “Lovey” Handelsman are now divorced. Even though the marriage has legally ended, the fight continues over how courts will divide the property they accumulated during seven decades of marriage. Find out more about the hotly-contested split below, and contact an experienced and dedicated Clearwater family law attorney if you’re facing divorce in Florida.

Nonagenarian couple divorces amid accusations of theft by both spouses

Burt, 90, and Lovey, 89, were married and began their real estate empire in Brooklyn, New York. In the ensuing seven decades, the couple acquired property in Upstate New York, Delray Beach, Key West, and Palm Beach County, most notably owning a number of shops along Worth Avenue occupied by tony retailers such as Ralph Lauren and Tourneau. Lovey filed for divorce in 2016, alleging that Burt was verbally abusive and had been having an affair with Jane Rankin, one of the Handelsmans’ attorneys. Had the divorce not been granted before Lovey died, her estate (and, thus, her children and grandchildren) would have been entitled to only 30% of the couple’s marital estate. Now that the divorce is final, Lovey is entitled to a 50% share of their accumulated wealth.

Both spouses have accused the other of stealing portions of the estate for their own use. Lovey accused Rankin of helping Burt to siphon off assets that rightfully belonged to Lovey, her children and her grandchildren. Earlier in the course of the trial, Palm Beach County Judge Scott Suskauer ruled that Rankin committed a “fraud on the court” alongside Burt by helping him falsify a document presented to the court as evidence. Lovey accused Burt of selling a valuable figurine shortly after she filed for divorce, after the couple was ordered not to dissipate marital assets, as well as collecting rent in cash from one of the couple’s tenants for his own use.

Burt also believes that he has been the victim of theft during the couple’s long marriage, though his accusations have largely been leveled against the couple’s three children. The three Handelsman siblings operate portions of the family’s business empire from the family home in White Plains, New York. While originally hired by Burt, he now sees the children as “enemies.”

In a deposition, Burt also accused his children of signing his name to checks without his approval, and of “kidnapping” several of his buildings. The children are represented by their own attorney in the divorce, so as to ensure that they remain in control of properties they believe are rightfully theirs in the divorce. The children’s attorney is also advocating that the children should no longer be obligated to remain business partners with their father after the divorce is final, citing numerous dubious decisions Burt has made in recent years.

Disagreements over appraisal value of property hinders settlement

Burt has claimed that he is prepared to settle the case, telling Lovey’s attorney, “I have been begging you to get this thing settled for months and months and months.” While Burt claims that he wants a settlement, he has been unwilling to compromise on many of his strongly-held positions in regards to how the couple’s properties should be divided. In many cases, he has claimed to have an emotional attachment to many of the properties, making him unable to relinquish them to his ex-wife. When Lovey’s attorneys have made offers for Burt to buy his spouse out of properties, however, he has balked at the value assigned by Lovey’s experts. For example, Lovey’s appraisers valued Worth Avenue properties owned by the couple at $21.4 million. Burt claims that, since some of these properties are occupied by a post office, bank, and retailers, the threats posed by the Internet to the value of these businesses mean that the property is only worth $11 million. The trial is expected to conclude in early March.

If you’re facing divorce in Florida and want dedicated, determined, and effective legal representation for your case, contact the Clearwater divorce attorneys at the Law Firm for Family Law at 727-531-8737.

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