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Recently, President Donald Trump issued an executive order that significantly curtailed immigration through the end of 2020. One group not impaired by the new executive order, however, is EB-5 investors. EB-5 investors are exempted under the new rule, meaning they can still obtain their visas. EB-5 investors still face many challenges when applying for the investor visa before U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. One thing that you should not allow is to delay your visa process by making preventable mistakes like paperwork flaws or proof shortcomings. Protect yourself from those mistakes by ensuring you have the services of an experienced South Florida immigration attorney.

A Bloomberg piece reported that, while the worldwide coronavirus pandemic has caused serious disruptions in the EB-5 program, there is still some good news for certain EB-5 investors. In March, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced it was changing the way that EB-5 visa applications would be processed. Under the new protocol, visa applications would be processed on an “availability” basis, meaning that, if there is a visa available for you (or if there soon will be,) then your petition is given top priority by the agency. See the Department of State Visa Bulletin for visa availability.

Visit Visa Bulletin July 2020!

If that’s you, and you can obtain approval relatively quickly, the last thing you want is delays in your investor visa petition process. For example, even if USCIS has deemed your case a “top” priority, it can still be sidelined if the agency finds what it perceives to be errors in your paperwork. If your petition lacks the proper and relevant documentation required to established eligibility, it will delay your visa adjudication process. When that happens, the agency may issue a request for evidence delaying it, or worse, the agency could elect to deny your case outright.

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We’ve mostly all heard the phrase “separation of church and state.” For many folks, though, the process of getting married inherently involves aspects of both secular and religious law. If you and your spouse-to-be seek to make binding promises as part of your religious obligations, it is important to proceed with the aid of a knowledgeable South Florida family law attorney. That’s because, if there is eventually a question later about something you or your spouse promised, it will be a Florida civil court and not a religious tribunal that decides the outcome, so you need to be sure that whatever you agreed to can be enforced by the secular courts in Florida.

This issue has popped up in multiple places recently, and two very recent decisions highlight how the courts might handle your religion-influenced case. In Maryland, an Islamic couple had undergone a civil marriage and an Islamic one. In the Islamic process, the husband made a mahr which, according to the Encyclopaedia of Islam, is a gift that the groom “has to give the bride when the contract of marriage is made and which becomes the property of the wife.”

The wife eventually filed in state court in Maryland to compel the husband to fulfill his mahr promise. The court ruled for the wife because it was able to resolve that dispute using solely secular Maryland contract law. The wife won because she had proof of the terms of the agreement, and the husband lacked evidence that the mahr agreement was either unconscionable under Maryland law or the product of “fraud, duress, coercion, mistake, undue influence,” one party’s incompetence or bad faith.

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The coronavirus-triggered shelter-in-place and social distancing requirements of 2020 have created, or at least hastened, changes in all walks of life, including in the world of business. Negotiations that might once have occurred face-to-face now might take place over a Zoom conference. Some businesses are, when it comes to their commercial contracts that once would have been executed with ink on paper, reconsidering whether those agreements can be signed electronically. With these new changes come new legal challenges, including ensuring that the methods you’ve used comply with Florida law in order that your end result will be an enforceable contract. Always be sure to rely on the advice of an experienced South Florida commercial contract attorney when it comes to executing such a contract, in order to ensure the contract with which you end up is one that’s drafted properly, executed properly and enforceable in the courts.

Electronic signatures are something that were gaining in popularity and frequency of use even before the pandemic struck. Before anyone had ever heard the phrase “COVID-19,” Florida had adopted its version of the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act. Fla. Stat. Section 668.50(7)(a) says that a signature “may not be denied legal effect or enforceability” strictly because it is an electronic one, and Subsection (b) says that just “because an electronic record was used in the formation of the contract,” that alone is not a sufficient basis to make the contract unenforceable.

In Florida, a valid electronic signature can be “an electronic sound,” a symbol, or a process “logically associated with a record” and inserted “with the intent to sign the record.” Electronic signature technology can allow signors to create an electronic version of their signature using their finger or a stencil on a touchscreen, or to sign with a prefabricated signature font created by the electronic platform. Either version potentially can be a valid electronic signature.

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Third-party beneficiary breach cases may occur from time to time in the course of your business, whether you are one of the actual parties to the underlying commercial contract, or your business is the third-party beneficiary.

A recent case from Miami is a very useful reminder that the law in Florida establishes some specific requirements in order for an alleged third-party to proceed with a breach of contract claim. If you are in the position of the third party, it is exceptionally important to be sure you have the right allegations in your court papers to cover all of the mandatory elements. If you are a defendant, your business may be able to use a shortcoming in one or more of these essential areas to get the case dismissed. Either way, it pays to have a South Florida commercial litigation attorney on your side who is experienced in these kinds of cases.

That recent Miami case involved a high-end vacation rental business that alleged that it was a third-party beneficiary to a contract, that a breach of that contract had occurred and that the breach has caused it to suffer damages.
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Many business people have a reasonable idea of what the word “jurisdiction” means generally. If you look it up on Google, that site says it’s “the official power to make legal decisions and judgments.” That’s a pretty fair overview-type description. The details of jurisdiction, and its impact on your business and business litigation actions, go much deeper, however. For in-depth knowledge of this area of the law, you need the skill of an experienced South Florida commercial litigation attorney, who can use the law to help you keep your case where you want it and avoid having to litigate in someplace where you don’t.

Recently, jurisdiction was the key to the resolution of a commercial litigation appeal between an international agricultural company and a Venezuelan cargo airline. The airline sought to litigate a multi-million dollar commercial contract dispute in state court in Miami.

The agricultural company was based in Dubai, its parent company was headquartered in India and even its U.S. subsidiary (which wasn’t part of this case) was based in Texas. Clearly, litigating a breach of contract action in Florida might be disadvantageous for the agricultural company. It might mean retaining additional attorneys, in addition to other expenses related to extensive travel and lost productivity elsewhere. So, what can you do if another company has tried to pull you into litigation in a far-flung place?

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We can learn a lot sometimes from legal cases involving celebrities. Musician Ric Ocasek, who achieved his greatest notoriety in the 1980s with his band The Cars and who died in 2019, is one such example. His case offers a clear example of how you, as a Floridian, can benefit from completing your divorce promptly or, perhaps even more beneficially, from executing a prenuptial or post-nuptial agreement with your spouse. If you have a large amount of wealth, the difference between doing these things and not doing these things can be millions of dollars. To make sure that your wealth will continue to go where you want it to, even as you contemplate an upcoming marriage or an upcoming divorce, be sure to rely upon an experienced Florida divorce attorney.

In 2018, Ocasek’s wife, model Paulina Porizkova, announced that she and Ocasek had separated in 2017. In September 2019, Ocasek died of natural causes. At the time, he and Porizkova remained married. Later last year, news reports indicated that Ocasek had excluded Porizkova from his will. The will stated that the pair were “in the process of divorcing” and that Porizkova was not entitled to anything from his estate “because she has abandoned me,” according to People.com. Ocasek’s estate included $5 million just in copyrights.

Ocasek died in New York City and his probate estate will not be administered in Florida. However, for many people, especially people with high dollar estates, it is very important to look at a case like Ocasek’s and understand the impact of a divorce on your probate estate. The Florida Statutes have something called a “spousal share” for surviving spouses. That law says that, if your spouse survives you, she can “elect” to receive 30% of your estate, regardless of what your estate planning documents say. (That’s true even if your documents expressly say she should receive nothing.)

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In the creation of any commercial contract, there are certain goals you want to accomplish. What is true in most all commercial contracts is that you want an agreement that is completely clear, and where your rights and obligations are unambiguously laid out in “black and white.” Even after you’ve done that, though, you may still have to fight to get the benefit of the bargain that you negotiated and signed. When that happens, be sure to reach out an experienced South Florida commercial litigation attorney about the specifics of your situation.

Why does having a clear and unmistakable agreement matter so much? One reason is that having a contract that is devoid of any vagueness or ambiguity may alter the landscape of your litigation in your favor should your contract partner sue you for breach. As an example, consider the case between a multinational hospitality corporation and an entity that provided corporate registered agent services along with document retrieval and delivery services.

Reportedly, the contract between the two sides said that either one could terminate the contract, with or without cause, without liability, and could do so at any point during the initial term or during any renewal term, as long the canceling party provided written notice within a certain timeframe. The contract’s initial duration was seven years.

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The unprecedented global cessation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic will have lasting effects on companies worldwide. COVID-19 and the government regulations to control the spread thereof have caused an increasing number of businesses to suspend operations and close down facilities, resulting in substantial losses. Any business owner with a commercial insurance policy that has suffered losses due to COVID-19 should have their policy reviewed immediately by an attorney to determine if they can recover their losses through business interruption insurance. Because insurance companies will attempt to deny claims due to the policy language or exclusions contained therein, it is critical for business owners to understand their policy rights, as well as current and future legal developments in the insurance sector relating to COVID-19, to ensure they are afforded the most protection possible.

I. Business Interruption Insurance and Litigation

Business interruption insurance covers business income that is lost or expenses incurred in the event of a stoppage in business operations due to a disaster, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, fire, or pandemics such as COVID-19. In many cases, business interruption insurance will also cover losses caused by government action, otherwise known as civil authority coverage. While each policy is different, business interruption insurance may cover lost profits, fixed costs, expenses associated with moving to a temporary business location, ingress/egress costs, employee wages, and loan payments, among other things. Each business’ coverage will be determined on a case by case basis, and therefore it is imperative that the policyholder understand their policy, including any time limitations or notice requirements thereunder required to trigger coverage.

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On February 19, 2020, the Small Business Reorganization Act (the “SBRA”) went into effect, shortly preceding the unprecedented blow to the global economy caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The coronavirus, as well as government regulations to control the spread of the virus, have forced both public and private enterprises to discontinue operations, shut down facilities, and in some cases have caused companies to close their doors permanently. Thus, businesses, particularly small businesses, are now struggling and unable to pay their creditors, and will need to rely heavily on the SBRA or other alternatives to bankruptcy in order to survive in these uncertain times. This article will discuss in detail what the SBRA is and its benefits for small businesses, the related Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, as well as several alternatives to bankruptcy that could prove to be more affordable and efficient for small businesses.

I. What is the Small Business Reorganization Act?

The SBRA was signed into law on August 23, 2019 and was intended to simplify the Chapter 11 bankruptcy process and offer new methods for small businesses to successfully reorganize. Prior to the SBRA, the primary options for struggling small businesses filing bankruptcy were limited to either Chapter 7 or Chapter 11, both of which have their drawbacks. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy is less costly, but involves the debtor’s assets being liquidated by a trustee to pay creditors, rendering the business unable to survive and retain control of its operations. Conversely, a Chapter 11 bankruptcy permits the debtor to retain control of its operations and restructure its debts through a court-approved plan, but the extensive court oversight and stringent requirements associated therewith can be too expensive for small businesses.

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Recently, singer/actor Justin Timberlake made the celebrity gossip and entertainment news after he was spotted holding hands with his costar from his latest movie, fueling rumors that Timberlake was having an affair with the actress. Timberlake and his wife, according to the New York Daily News, have a prenuptial agreement that says that, if Timberlake cheats and the couple divorces, his infidelity would result in his wife receiving an extra $500,000 in the divorce settlement. That sum would be small compared to actor Michael Douglas, who would owe an extra $5 million if he cheated on wife Catherine Zeta-Jones and the pair divorced, according to the Daily News.

These types of provisions in prenuptial agreements, which are generally dubbed “lifestyle’ clauses, can address everything from sexual fidelity to a spouse’s weight to the frequency of sex…even down to how often the in-laws visit, and they are increasing in popularity. If you desire to learn more about the creation or the enforcement of your prenuptial agreement with a lifestyle clause, be sure to retain an experienced Florida prenuptial agreement attorney.

If you are in a position of high visibility in South Florida business and/or society, you probably have certain expectations of your partner… expectations you might desire to be placed in a prenuptial agreement. As a person of social and/or professional prominence, you might be concerned that a husband who notoriously cheats on you could damage your standing in society, and so desire a fidelity clause in your prenup. Alternately, you might be a high-powered business professional who’s concerned that a wife whose appearance goes from South Beach supermodel to obese could harm your business prospects by negatively impacting your professional “brand,” thereby making you interested in a weight (or similar appearance) clause in your prenup.

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