Category Archives: Blog and FAQ

My Mother is aging and health is declining. I need some legal advice on few options?

Q: Currently I am the primary care person for my mother. She started to decline last year after she had congestive heart failure. She is at home and my brothers and I cover time in-between. There are times she goes without coverage for a few hours. She is starting to have a fear of being alone. We are wanting to possibly work with a lawyer to help guide us through the process and find a solution that will last without bankrupting her in two years. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A:  It is good that you recognize the need for an attorney. No one can answer exactly what legal services your mother needs without knowing more information, including the extent of her assets and how they are titled, her health, her health insurance coverage, her long- term disability coverage if any and her competency, it will likely be necessary to have the attorney draft a General Durable Power of Attorney, Last Will and Testament and a Living Will. Advice on the potential of Medicaid funding may also be helpful.

Is there a POA that will not allow real estate transfers?

Q: My older sister wants to be POA over my father to handle his finances, bank accounts, insurance, etc. But, my father doesn’t want to give her authority to sell/transfer/liquidate his real estate property. He would like to have a will done to include his three children receive shares of the real estate property. Please advise on what steps to take to insure his wishes are carried out since he is 84 years old and my mother just passed away on 5/25/17.

A: The “powers” portion of a General Durable Power of Attorney can be tailored to fit a particular need. Your father should make an appointment with an attorney and have the attorney draft a POA which removes the specific powers which authorize an agent to transfer real estate. Limiting language can be added to the effect that he does not authorize his agent to sell, transfer or liquidate his real estate.

Can I get my property back if I’m not allowed on the property?

Q: My girlfriend lived with her grandfather for a few years and when she moved out two months ago she left a few large items on the property with permission. Around one month ago however her mother died and an argument over the funeral plans caused the grandfather to bar her from the property and he is refusing to allow her to collect her things. He is asking for an absurd amount of money to collect the items, to the tune of $40 a day since she moved in or roughly $78,000 in back storage fees that were never agreed to. He also refuses to allow her to collect the items from her mother’s estate as she lived with him at the time of her passing. The items value at around $2,000 to $3,000 but some of them are extremely sentimental and there are also textbooks that she needs for college. I need to know my legal options to retrieve these items or to sue him for the value. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: He sounds like a real pill. Perhaps multiple trips up the Courthouse steps is what he needs. Seriously, regarding her property located in the old geezer’s house, have her file a civil suit with the local District Justice under a conversion or theft theory of law. Before she does, provide him a demand letter via certified mail to prove to the court that he was given notice of suit and did not respond. As far as her mother’s estate, she should review that with an estate attorney. More information would need to be known, such as was an estate opened? If not, why? If an estate was opened was this personal property you describe listed on the estate Inventory? If not, why? Etc. etc. Consult with a local estate lawyer.

How do you stop a group mental home from moving to your street?

Q: There is a government subsidized group home for people that are mentally challenged that is planning to buy the lot that is across the street from my house, which is in an area zoned R-1. My concerns are that I have a fifteen-year old daughter. I learned from a police officer that’s one of the residents on the street that the group home was renting in a different location, and there have been problems. One of the residents of the home has walked around the neighborhood and been caught looking-into houses. They could also be violent or sex offenders. I would like to stop them from buying across the street. What would it take to stop them from moving in? Can a group home move into an area zoned R-1? (Baldwin, PA)

A:  If they are mentally challenged, you can probably outsmart them. If what they propose is not a permissible use under the zoning code, they may have to seek a variance, which puts a very high burden on them. The question is all about whether the proposed plan meets the criteria of your local zoning ordinance. You can do many things. Go to the borough building and get a copy of the most recent zoning code and read it. You can contact the zoning code enforcement officer and tell him your concerns and ask him why the proposed use does or does not meet the zoning code. Find out from the borough secretary when borough council meets and ask the procedure for citizens to appear and address council. Also, as mentioned, join in with your neighbors and unite to oppose the proposed use. Circulate petitions against. You can also hire a lawyer to advocate for you. Do not wait until it is too late to start your legal opposition. Lastly, which I do not advise, you can arm yourself legally and take advantage of the Commonwealth’s nifty expanded deadly force laws.

What legally could happen to my daughter?

Q: My daughter 19 was in a relationship on and off with a 17-year old male. Both sets of parents knew about relationship. In April, my daughter found out she was pregnant and now the mother of the boy wants to press charges for corruption of minor.

A: Legally, it could happen as he is a minor and she is an adult, even though barely. People on the lower IQ spectrum feed off television and want to put everyone else in jail. Will it happen? I would hope the police will not pursue this and would think cooler heads will prevail. To start young parents off with criminal charges will not serve any purpose other than aggravating the situation. Plus, the defendant may have a judge find her not guilty given the circumstances.

I need a lawyer to help me with my husband’s 401K, Pension, social security.

Q: My husband passed away 50 days ago at age 66. He took care of everything in the house. I have no idea about his 401K, pension, social security. He passed at age 66. He worked for Rockwell International for over 30 years. I was in huge shock. He almost handled everything in the house. I need a lawyer to help me sort it out.

A:  It is not unusual to need a lawyer in your situation. Most people do. At least you know that you need one. All you need to do is locate an estate attorney in your area. Ask around for a referral, talk to people who have used attorneys in these situations. What you describe should not be that complicated or expensive to handle. Rockwell should be able to help you identify his employee benefits, pension, etc., and assist you in at least getting started with the paperwork. An attorney can assist you further and with related inheritance tax and income tax issues. I am sorry for your loss but am confident you can get through this.

How do I go about representing myself in a criminal trial?

Q: While I was incarcerated I had a Public Defender representing me. After I was released from serving my Parole Violation I reapplied for the PD but was told my wife makes too much. Unfortunately, even at a discount, I cannot afford an attorney. I am already at the trial stage. I have two separate cases being tried and I refuse to take a plea since I am innocent on both cases and I will not let them bully me into a longer record and more time on probation or parole! If I must represent myself then I shall, I am not afraid to put in work on my cases! I only need to know what procedure or motion or petition I need to follow or submit in order to represent myself! I know each county in Pennsylvania can be slightly different and my county (Fayette) seems to follow their own rules, but I know I am afforded the right to represent myself by the US Constitution and they can’t deny that. (Uniontown, PA)

A: No one can advise you what to do without knowing all the facts and all the applicable law. You can probably find a lawyer to work with you. When I was a young lawyer, one of my first jury trial was done at a drastically reduced rate for a career criminal who had learned the law on the job, so to speak, while spending time in state correctional facilities. We ended up with a hung jury the first time, and an acquittal on the retrial. If you want to do this yourself, pro se, all I can say is read, read, read and reread the law. Go get em!

Should I settle my credit card debt?

Q: If a law firm sues me for a credit card debt, should I try to settle it with a phone call to them or hire an attorney? I was making payments to a law firm that collects debt. I missed 1 payment and they called me I told them that I lost my job and it was hard for me to make the payments. I agreed to make a fraction of a payment and they took it. They called me two days later and requested another payment. I told them I could not make another payment for at least 2 weeks. Then I received a letter from a local magistrate that I am being sued.

A: I would consult with an attorney before settling with this company. Many of these claims by debt buyers and not the original creditor. Claims by the debt buyers many times can be defended by being dismissed with preliminary objections or being knocked out at the trial. Often these debt buyers cannot prove the initial contract or any assignment to them from the original creditor.

The Commonwealth filed a notice of crimen falsi convictions. What does this mean?

Q: I filed a motion to substitute counsel and the following day the Commonwealth filed a notice of defendant’s crimen falsi convictions. I don’t know what that means and I just put a motion in to get a new attorney because my attorney misled and lied to me the whole time and I put all that in my motion. I’m confused too what this means. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: Crimen Falsi is a Latin word for crimes of falsity, or crimes indicating dishonesty. Apparently, the Commonwealth is positioning itself for a trial with you. They are giving you advanced notice that they will introduce portions of your criminal history which constitute “crimen falsi”, if you choose to testify. These types of crimes are theft, burglary, fraud, receiving stolen property, bad checks, etc. By taking the stand you are putting your credibility at issue. Under the rules of evidence, the Commonwealth has the right to impeach your credibility with past convictions of crimes which demonstrate your past dishonesty, and therefore lack of credibility. When you receive the Notice of Crimen Falsi, you will have the right under the rules to file an objection to it in its entirety or any portion of it. For example, if one of the crimes is a retail theft for a pack of gum 20 years ago when you were 18 years old, you can object to that particular past conviction being stale. You need to research the rules of evidence on this. You should have a lawyer and not try to litigate this yourself because you may end up in jail. Would you perform minor surgery on yourself?