Can my aunt contest my grandmother’s life estate?

Q: I have lived with my grandmother for over 18 years now and raised both of my children here with her. When her children found out she left the house to me as a life estate they stopped talking to her. She pays all the bills in turn I take care of her and promised to never leave her and to never allow her to be put in a home. She wants to die in her own house. My family and I care for her every day. We do breakfast, lunch dinner, medicine, showers, changing her diapers, anything and everything that she needs. We are the only ones here to help. They want nothing to do with her and only contact her by phone occasionally. They send her cards in the mail and they live 2 miles away. Sometimes one of her other granddaughters will come here just to take her to the bank to get money. They want to wait until she passes because they know while she’s alive she will fight for me and what she wants for us. But she is 97 and shouldn’t have to go through this. It stresses her out thinking they are going to try to take away the home we have built. is there anything we can do to ease her mind and make sure that these people cannot hurt us anymore? (Penn Hills, PA)

A: It is difficult to tell who has the life estate, you or your grandmother. I strongly suggest that you and your grandmother meet with an elder lawyer or estate lawyer who can look at this deed and advise you as to what your options are. If she has the life estate, the normally will house transfer to someone upon her death, hopefully you. If you have the life estate you can live there until you die, then the house transfers to someone else.

Can a lawyer disclose criminal discovery to a third party without the defendant’s knowledge?

Q: This is a criminal homicide case. The lawyer is always on TV. He gave all kind of information on my brother’s mental health to a news reporter. Neither my brother, nor my family consented to this. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: Generally, a lawyer cannot disclose confidential client information without the consent of the client. However, there are situations when it is appropriate or required. I am not sure about this situation. I am not understanding why it would be required and what advantage to your brother it would create, but I am not familiar with the case. If you feel this is potentially harmful, you may want to have your brother immediately tell the lawyer that he does not consent to the release. You may also want to contact the news organization as well to inform them that they have no authority to release this information.

What can I do to stop my neighbor from holding big swinger’s parties?

Q: The parties bring attendees from a few neighboring states. Our entire street is taken by cars parked on both sides. They come and go at all hours. They’re noisy and can be a very disturbing sight because of their wardrobe. I believe neighbor profits from activity since partygoers wear wristbands. I already asked neighbor to at least downsize his activities. He did nothing. Entire community is affected by this! (Monroeville, PA)

A: You could just keep calling the police when the noise erupts. My approach would be to get a copy of the Borough Zoning Ordinance and read it and become familiar with the applicable portions. I would do this before I talk to the Zoning Officer. It is very likely that the borough would have noise violations and possibly even parking restrictions if the street becomes that congested. You can also have neighbors unify and attend a  council meeting. You probably need to schedule ahead of time if you want to speak. The more attention the neighbor’s house gets, the more likely they are to curtail their operations and move elsewhere.

Can I clear my record with felonies?

Q: I got a felony 1 and felony 2 pertaining to an aggravated assault case in 2001. It’s been over like 17 years almost. I just want to move on and better my life, but I can’t get a good job due to the record. What can I do. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A:  If you were convicted of the felonies, they cannot be expunged. At least under the present state of the law. If you are not certain if you were convicted of the Aggravated Assault and the charges may have been reduced (to a misdemeanor or summary) you should get your criminal record to verify your history. You can expunge summary convictions after 5 years of arrest free behavior and certain misdemeanors under new expungement laws. If you are certain you have these felony convictions, your only hope is a pardon. In that case, seek out the advice of an attorney who handles pardons.

I received five tool violations in the mail

Q: I received 5 separate tool violations and am afraid I’ll have more coming. I exited the EZ-pass lane and thought I had funds. The cost of the tools are a few bucks each, but each separate violation has a 25.00 admin fee. Is it possible to appeal or get those waived or reduced? (Export, PA)

A:  I think you mean toll, not “tool”. I have never represented anyone for this offense. I however, committed a similar violation. I read my appeal rights on the back of the EZ fine material that came with the ticket, and appealed. I provided supporting documentation and my appeal was granted. I was spared. If you have a defense you may want to appeal.

Can I move from Pittsburgh with my daughter?

Q: My kid’s dad pays child support. We have no custody agreement through the courts though. His name is not on her birth certificate. What should I do if I need to move to be closer to my family or to move for better work opportunities? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: There is a statute on relocation that needs to be followed. Notice must be provided. If you just pack up and leave with the child, the father can file an emergency motion and obtain a contempt order. I would consult with a child custody attorney before planning such move.

Can a detective call your phone and come to your house under false pretense?

Q: Me and a co-worker (who threatened me with bodily harm) got into an argument. Then she said I did something to her car and stated there was a video. But the video doesn’t have my face on it and it wasn’t me. It happened a month ago and now a detective has called and just left a message that he wanted to talk to me. He never said come down and talk face-to-face but he wanted to talk to me over the phone. There is no warrant for my arrest. What should I do? (Pittsburgh, PA)

Q: Do not speak to this person. You have a 5th Amendment right to remain silent. Whoever this person is, a police officer, a private detective or whatever, he or she is likely not acting in your best interest. Your statements may be used against you. The best advice for you is to get an attorney with whom you can share all the facts in confidentiality, and then decide the best way for you to proceed, which may be remaining silent or speaking with this “detective” in the presence of your counsel.

What will happen if I do not respond to the police and where do I go from here?

Q: Last month I let someone borrow my car and they were caught shoplifting a single food item from a gas station. The person gave the item back to the manager, but she wanted their ID. The person said no and left in my vehicle and the manager ended up getting the license plate number. Three days ago, the police called my place of work and left a message wanting to know who I let use the car. That same day they showed up at my last place of residence but the people who live there now don’t know anything about me. I am not going to tell the police who borrowed my car so what should I expect to happen. (Penn Hills, PA)

A:  Even if the police suspect you are not the perpetrator, they could arrest you just to put pressure on you to give information. If I had to guess, I doubt it because the crime is very minor-likely to be a summary retail theft-and the item was returned. If you are arrested or cited, and you still want play hardball, just go through the process and it is likely (hopefully) that the store manager will not identify you. If you go that route, do it with an attorney.

Can my sister evict our elderly mother?


Q: Eight years ago, my sister convinced our mother to leave a HUD subsidized senior complex to live in her house instead. At the time she wanted our mother to take care of her house while she lived elsewhere. My mother uses most of her Social Security pension, her only source of income, to pay my sister a monthly rent plus other expenses. My sister has just given notice that she wants our mother out of the house so that she can convert her house into a full rental unit. We are trying to find a place for her, but so far, all the federally subsidized places we have looked at have a one to three year waiting list. My sister says she must be out in six months. Does my mother have any legal rights to remain in the house until she finds another viable living arrangement? (Versailles, PA)

A: I think the reality of the situation is that your mother needs to find elsewhere to live. You could consult with a landlord tenant lawyer. Your mother has rights under landlord tenant law. Normally however, landlord tenant laws are not so generous as to allow six-months-notice unless such time is provided in the lease. You could assist her by reaching out to senior housing programs.

How can I have my 93-year-old mother declared incompetent?

Q: My sister and I have had joint POA since 2013, but not immediate. We have never exercised any POA. I have been taking care of her, although she is in an “independent living” place. I do her finances, her shopping…she should not be alone any more, as her health and mental condition are both deteriorating. She cannot live with me. My sister and her husband are willing to have her move in with them in another state, until a nursing home or hospice is the only option. She does not want to go, but at this point it cannot be her choice anymore. Ten years of my life are gone. (West Mifflin, PA)

A: This is a difficult situation. If your mother is deemed to be incompetent to manage her own affairs, you can file to be appointed her guardian. Until then, she can make her own decisions. You really need to sit down with a lawyer who handles guardian work and share all the facts.