Unique only to Miami as the gateway to Latin America as well as many other countries of the world, Cantor & Webb P.A. was formed in 1984 by Steven L. Cantor to be an international tax and estate planning law firm…then became so much more.
The firm was born out of the real estate boom of the time and Cantor was introduced to many foreigners who were interested in investing in real estate here. “Our practice is unique and very reflective of the city in which we live and the time during which it was founded,” said Cantor. From its humble beginnings in 1984 with just Cantor as the sole attorney and his now antiquated IBM Selectric typewriter, the firm has grown considerably to include name Partner Hal J. Webb and a team of six other attorneys with a staff of more than 15 multilingual paraprofessionals, accountants and administrative assistants.
“We’ve assembled a great team of talented, dedicated and hard-working individuals, who share a common vision to serve our very wealthy international clientele in the realm of tax and estate planning and real estate transactions among others,” said Cantor. “Our real estate paralegal has been with me for almost 24 years.”
Predominantly servicing Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe and Canada with a smattering of clients from such exotic places as South Africa, the Middle East and Hong Kong, Cantor & Webb P.A. has grown exponentially as a result of word of mouth referrals and its fulfillment of the most demanding clients’ needs.
While being smaller than the international full-service law firms with which it competes, Cantor credits his activity within the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners, also known as STEP, based in London, for much of the firm’s growth.
“Being a member of this prestigious international group of attorneys, accountants and trust professionals from around the world has given us exposure and entrée to other firms and clients which we would otherwise have had much more difficulty reaching,” he said.
Cantor grew up on Miami Beach and watched as the city of Miami morphed from a sleepy southern town of mostly Cuban immigrants in the 1960s to an international mecca of private banking and real estate investments.
Most recently, Kathryn von Matthiessen joined the firm, leaving a major New York law firm at which she was a partner, bringing with her 15 years of international trust and estate planning expertise.
“Cantor & Webb P.A. has a stellar reputation as a boutique international tax concierge law firm servicing high net worth private clients that competes with the major firms of the world,” she said. “Th is is a sophisticated area of practice that requires a specific dedication to become proficient. All of Cantor & Webb P.A.’s attorneys have Master of Laws (LL.M) degrees in tax law and, in addition, have taken extensive international tax and estate planning courses. That’s something you do not see at many other firms and is one of the many reasons I chose to join.”
As a result of the firm’s diverse clientele, the attorneys at Cantor & Webb P.A. are also asked to handle an eclectic mix of legal matters.
A typical scenario would involve a wealthy international family with one or more grown children living in the United States either because they were born here, went to college here and decided to stay, or married a U.S. citizen still paying income tax here. Because the majority of the family’s wealth was accumulated outside the United States, a sophisticated trust arrangement may be required so that the income tax consequences are addressed in the most tax efficient manner.
“On a daily basis, we are asked to advise leading high net worth Latin American families prior to their becoming fiscal residents of the United States. We have done pre-residency tax planning for a vast number of wealthy Venezuelan families as a result of the political and economic turmoil brought on under the late President Hugo Chavez,” said Cantor. “Before such a family gives up their home and moves to the United States, with proper planning we can minimize their tax consequences before ever coming onshore.”
Additionally, the firm has evolved into handling other non-tax law ‘concierge-type services’ for many clients.
“We have a very special client, who raises and breeds horses. He wanted to introduce this new breed of horses to the U.S. market by conducting an auction in Palm Beach County. So, for four years, we orchestrated this world-class horse auction for the client. This included all aspects of event planning and management as well as the annual shipping of 30 horses from South America through special cargo planes.”
The firm has also handled the purchase and sale of private yachts, airplanes, artwork and art collections for its clients.
“Pretty much anything that falls into the category of ‘toys’ for the well-to-do, we handle,” said Cantor. “Because of the relationship we have with these clients, we oft en go above and beyond our usual scope of work and provide these clients with upkeep and maintenance services on extremely expensive homes. It’s an extreme level of confidence and trust that they have in our law firm.”
Finally, brought on by heightened international tax enforcement by the IRS over the past five years, the firm has built a significant tax compliance practice.
“The firm has seen a substantial increase in client engagements, in response to the increased focus by the IRS on enforcement of reporting requirements of foreign bank accounts, the enactment of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (‘FATCA’) and other related legislation,” said Cantor.
We brought in Arthur J. Dichter who immediately transitioned to become a partner aft er spending 15 years with Deloitte and then a while as a director of tax for a regional accounting firm. He is essential to our handling of these complicated international tax compliance matters.”
Today with the rise in affluence and emergence of stronger economies in the developing world, coupled with easier air transportation, Cantor believes there is likely to be an increase in demand for cross border legal and tax concierge services for high net worth international clients. He, along with his partners Webb, Dichter and von Matthiessen welcome these new opportunities and look forward to a very bright future for their rapidly growing law firm.