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A Home Saved, a Pro Bono Story

Do you have a Pro Bono Story to share? Send it to Kayla Heckman

In one of its recent pro bono matters, the Agentis Firm successfully preserved its client’s homestead against multiple defendants who attempted to cheat the client out of her constitutionally protected homestead.
The client, who we will call X, came to the United States from Latin America; she neither understands nor speaks English at all, and has very little formal education. X came to the US with a family from her country to work as a housekeeper. At some point that family took away her passport and other identifying documents. Because X did not have legal immigrant status, and in order to keep X (essentially as an indentured servant), the family with whom X worked orchestrated an arranged marriage so that X could obtain a green card. However, X and her husband actually fell in love. They got married and moved into a little one bedroom apartment (the “Homestead”) that the husband owned before they got married. Unfortunately, the husband got very ill and died five years after they got married. X continued to live in the Homestead.
While the husband was dying, and while he was heavily medicated, he signed a document supposedly giving title to the Homestead to a Trust that named the husband’s employer as trustee, along with a quit claim deed to the Homestead to the employer. X signed documents presented to her by a lawyer, who represented the husband’s employer. The lawyer misrepresented what the documents said. The documents were not translated, and X was never told she had the right to get her own lawyer.
Soon after, the husband’s employer, as trustee and “owner” of the Homestead, told X that he had sold the Homestead and that X needed to get out. At that point X found Jacqui Calderin, who, with the assistance of her partners, Bob Charbonneau and Vanessa Bertran, immediately started trying to unwind all the documents X had been tricked into signing. Agentis filed a lawsuit against the husband’s employer and his counsel and obtained a temporary injunction on any sale of the Homestead.
After a successful mediation, Agentis was able to get X what she is entitled to under the Florida Constitution – her widow’s share of the value of the Homestead. As Jacqui wrote “So many of these pro bono matters often have a less than happy ending. This is one that I think we can all feel good about.”

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