Category Archives: Blog and FAQ

Can I get a POA over mom without her knowledge?

Q: My 89-year-old mother has been diagnosed with severe delusions and after a psychological and medical evaluation, a letter was written stating that she is suffering from delusions and is not capable of handling her financial affairs. With an attorney in my presence, my mother stated that she would never let anyone take over her financial affairs and stated that she would not live. My mother believes she is a CEO of a company, married to someone that does not exist. Her only source of income is social security around $960 per month and most of it is used to set up business phones. Banks accounts were set up as business accounts even though the name she sets it up is different than her ID. There is other devastating and crazy actions that consumes all her SSI. Her current doctor will write another letter regarding her delusions and she is currently taking medication for delusions. Is it possible for me and my sister to get a Power of Attorney without our mother having knowledge of it because it would harm her and could make her have a stroke or serious medical issue? We heard from other families with the same situation that they have done it. Is so who can do it and what is the average cost and time frame? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: No, you cannot get a Power of Attorney over someone without their knowledge. The person must be competent, understand what they are doing and sign the document. Your mother sounds like she may not be competent to sign such a document. If that is the case, your only option would be to file in court to be her guardian. Your mother certainly would have to know about this proceeding as she would be summoned to court unless excused for health reasons. You should consult with a CA lawyer in person.

Am I entitled to my Deceased fathers estate step mother dies?

Q: My natural father divorced my mother when I was 10 years old. I have 2 siblings. He remarried a woman with two children and didn’t father any of his own with her. He gained custody of me but due to the physical abuse by my father and stepmother, I became a ward of the state until I was 16. My father had a sizable estate when he passed away, which I believe could be millions of dollars. This stepmother controls all assets and when my father was alive prevented any type of relationship or financial assistance to any of his children. When she passes away are we entitled to sue the estate? She lives in Florida now. (Finleyville, PA)

A: I assume your father did not leave anything to you when he passed? If so I am not sure why his wife would. However, you never know. There is no law that says you are entitled to any inheritance from either your father or your step mother. Both have the free will to exclude you from their estate or inheriting in any way from them. There is too little information here to provide an answer. When you learn she passes, you may want to talk with the attorney of her estate or trust to determine if by chance there you are an heir. If you are an heir of her estate, or their trust, you will be contacted. However, it wouldn’t hurt to be proactive and call the attorney handling her estate.

Charged with 3rd DUI this past April. Last DUI in 2006. Why?

Q: I was arrested on April 17, 2017 for my third DUI. My first DUI was in 2006. I do not remember the date of sentencing and the docket sheet is not available on the UJS Portal website which has the public records. I also had ARD for my first one. Because I cannot find the date of disposition I do not know if it qualifies for the 10-year look-back. I hired a lawyer and paid him a good sum of money for the preliminary hearing all the while he said he would look into the first DUI. He never did it he always seems to have some an excuse. The preliminary is over and now I am awaiting formal arraignment in a few days on October 31st. I am now paying him more money and he says he cannot find anything out until after the arraignment. He even said that I don’t have to be present for the arraignment which is suspicious to me because I was unaware that the arraignment is where I either plead guilty or not guilty. Either I had my head in the clouds or he didn’t inform me of this. I’ve been doing research and I’m starting to get irritated with him. My last question is if I choose to go with another lawyer can I request a postponement to obtain my records? (West Homestead, PA)

A: It sounds like you should listen to your attorney. In Allegheny County, the defendant need not appear at the Formal Arraignment if an attorney who has entered his appearance handles it. You do not plead guilty or not guilty at your Formal Arraignment. Your attorney may be waiting for a confirmation from the DA. The Allegheny County DA has a department that does nothing but run criminal histories on defendants and they are usually accurate. The DA should have your record at the Pretrial Conference to share with your attorney or shortly thereafter and this will shed light as to whether you have made ten years from date of conviction to date of arrest. If the last DUI was in 2006 and you made ten years, it will be graded as a first offense under the guidelines.

My brother cut his house arrest bracelet off, how much time will he get?

Q: My brother was arrested for attempting to steal a motor vehicle. He got house arrest for 11.5 months. About four months in, he freaked and cut his bracelet off with a hacksaw and went drinking. He turned himself in two days later when his wife wouldn’t let him in the house. (Millvale, PA)

A: There is too little information here to give a thoughtful answer. I don’t know his prior record, whether he was charged for escape for cutting off his collar, whether the trial judge for the auto case revoked his bond, etc. My thought is that the trial judge revoked his bond and is going to let him sit a while and see if he is charged with escape for absconding house arrest. Turning himself in never hurts. If my assumptions are correct, I do not think the trial judge will reward him by granting a motion for him to return to house arrest again or alternative housing for the holidays. It may be Christmas in jail for your brother. He should ask his lawyer.

Must I let my ex in to see my new home that I am relocating to?

Q: I have a basic custody agreement with my ex-husband. I have primary physical custody, and he gets our daughter every other weekend. We always meet in a neutral place for drop off and pick up. I recently got engaged and am moving in with my fiancée and his children. The relocation puts us closer to my ex, so it does not interfere with the current visitation schedule. I sent him an email and formal letter, giving him the information outlined in the agreement necessary for relocation: 30-day notice, address, phone number. He emailed back stating that I need to make arrangements for him to come and see the new home where she will be living. He is extremely disparaging towards me and barrages me with text messages that are downright mean. I do not want him in my new home, whatsoever. Neither does my fiancée, due to his behavior. Do I have to let him visit? My ex seems to think that I do. Nowhere in the custody order does it state that this is a stipulation. Please advise. (Baldwin Twp., PA)

A: I know of no such rule and inspecting each other’s home is not in your agreement. It is a tough question given his interest in ensuring the new home is suitable for the child balanced against your concerns of his controlling behavior. If you don’t want to let him in, don’t do it. The risk is that he may withhold custody, which may cause you legal fees, but which is a battle you should ultimately win. Is there a middle ground? Does he have a normal person in the family, like a sister, who can inspect your new home and report back to him?

Got a notice for an ARD violation notice, what can I do?

Q: I got a first-time offense DUI and was accepted into the ARD program. I haven’t paid off my fines and I still need to take one class. I have one month to my court date. If I pay off the rest of my fines and complete the class before I go to court can I possibly not get my ARD revoked? Should I contact my PO tomorrow to see if they have any advice, or is it too late to call them? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: Yes, in Allegheny County, all is not lost, especially if you have a month to get it together. You need to be proactive and get everything done. Call your PO immediately and give him your spin on your recent financial difficulties. If you pay and complete your class before the hearing, and the PO still wants to go through with the hearing, you should probably take a lawyer to court. You don’t want to have your ARD revoked because it is a one-time deal and will prevent you from having a record.

Can a landlord split the water bill?

Q: Can my landlord of our duplex have the tenants split the water bill when there is one meter in the building? My water is included in my rent. (Penn Hills, PA)

A: As stated, if water is included in your rent, and you agreed to that term when you signed the lease, I do not see the landlord as having a problem. It might be different if you agreed to “split” or “share” the actual water bill and the other tenant is a water hog, using much more than you. Even if obligated by the lease, you may have a fairness argument, for what it would be worth.

Will I lose my house?

Q: We built an in-law apartment onto our home with proceeds from the sale of their home. If they need to be moved into a nursing home before five (5) years have passed, will they or us need to come up with the full amount of money generated from the sale of their house, necessitating the sale of our home to recoup the $53,000 spent on their apartment, before Medicaid will pay the rest of the expenses? Or does Medicaid accept/require the remaining monies only? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: You need to consult with an attorney who is versed in Medicaid regulations. Generally, the idea is that any transfer of wealth, without fair consideration (like gifts) within five years of the Medicaid application, can render the Medicaid applicant ineligible for Medicaid funding to the extent of the value of the transfer. It is not the nursing home that triggers the 5-year look back but the Medicaid application. If you are saying that they liquidated their home, to pay for an addition to your home so they can live in it under your care, I am not sure the entire value of the addition is a gift as they are receiving consideration in the form of housing and care. An attorney can also advise you on a caretaker contract which may help you shelter some of the in-law’s estate.

What is Lewd and Lascivious conduct?

Q: My partner and I were caught by a police officer being intimate inside my partners car at an outdoor park that was closed at night. The officer took my partners name and drivers number, and just my name. We are both 18. I am just wondering what will or could happen. The officer did state that he knows it’s a different day and age and we are being kids. However, it is concerning that he still took down information. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A:  I am not sure exactly what you mean by “intimate”. If your actions involved having sex in a public park, even if closed, you could be cited with Open Lewdness, which reads as follows:
§ 5901. Open lewdness.
“A person commits a misdemeanor of the third degree if he does any lewd act which he knows is likely to be observed by others who would be affronted or alarmed”.
If what you were doing was not that offensive and the officer wants to cut you a break, he may not file charges. He may have taken names and information for a record in the event police locate you there in the future. If the officer will file, you are considered at adult at age 18, and therefore may receive a summons for court. If you do, take it to a lawyer. The lawyer will know what options are available to you.

If a minor’s case gets tossed in district court can they still charge in juvenile court?

Q: My 17-year-old son pulled over 12:46am for having a break light out. Cop said he didn’t have insurance, but I did, it’s my car, His mom I just bought it 10 days prior and just didn’t get around to dropping old and adding new car with our insurance agent. They searched car found small amount weed, a bong, papers and e-cigarette devices. Now, I get 2 fines for district court no brake lights no insurance, but it’s addressed to the defendant with my first name and my son’s last name. The cop wrote it this way on the ticket, so I am fighting the ticket. If they drop these tickets can it go to juvenile court? Since the district dropped I don’t understand why 2 different courts are charging with the same offenses. (Duquesne, PA)

A: Your question is a bit confusing. It really depends on who is charged in each action. If you are charged on the Motor Vehicle traffic summaries, and your son is subsequently charged in juvenile court for the reefer, then that is permissible under the rules. However, if your son is charged with Motor Vehicle summaries, enters a plea of guilty, or is found guilty or not guilty, an adjudication occurs. The police cannot then charge him again for drug offenses arising out of the same set of facts. There are Rules 109 and 110 of the PA Rules of Criminal Procedure that address this. It is basically a double jeopardy situation. I would consult with a lawyer for a precise answer as I am not looking at your charges and am not sure I have all the facts