Should I put utilities in my name?

Q: I lived with elderly mother all my life. All the utilities were in her name, but I paid the bills. She died 2 years ago. I still live in the house and still pay the bills. Shortly after her death I told the alarm company that she died, and they said there was no need to change anything because I had continued to pay the bill. But now I’m wondering if I should try to change the name on the utilities and how. (Sharpsburg, PA)

A: As you can see, the utility provider mainly cares about being paid, not who is paying. I know of no such law that mandates you change the name on these accounts. Perhaps someone else does. I would however change the name on the accounts. It will establish a credit history with the providers attributable to you as a payee. As far as real estate taxes go, you need to update who is living in the house. This is to avoid wrongly benefiting from any senior citizen’s discounts if you are not a senior citizen. I would also inform the property insurer as to her death and request the account to be switched into your name. For all you know there is a clause in the policy that negates coverage if your mother died or moved.

Is there a time limit to file an Omnibus pretrial motion?

Q: This is in the state of PA for a criminal case. I was caught in PA for a DUI, which I am contesting and handling myself until I can find suitable counsel. I left my Formal Arraignment the other day with a paper saying I had a time deadline to file the Omnibus Motion. I need to get my lab results to a lab because I suspect they will be tampered with. I also want all the evidence against me. (Sharpsburg, MD)

A: Allegheny County and many other counties, do not strictly enforce the 30-day rule. To preclude further discovery based on a technical time limit would be a denial of due process, so most courts do not enforce the rule. The point is for the defense to not wait until too close to trial to file discovery motions as this may cause the defense to continue the case, or even be precluded if the court feels the defense is intentionally stalling. Get your discovery motion in as soon as you can. Normally, you need to review the DA’s discovery first.  I suggest hiring a lawyer to represent you.

How can I get a 27-year-old felony exhumed in Pennsylvania?

Q: I have a 27-year-old felony. I was charged with involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault from May 1991. How can I get out of this? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: I think you are asking how to get this charge taken off you record which is called an expungement You cannot get it expunged since you were convicted, and it was a felony. Until the legislature allows expungements of felonies, you are stuck. When asked, perhaps you can put a favorable spin on it. You will need to file for a Pardon. Consult with an attorney who handles pardons.

Can he work as a CNA with prior involuntary manslaughter?

Q: I am asking this for my other half because he wants to get back in to CNA and had charges of involuntary manslaughter? Would he be able to work in PA as one? He served all his time for it and has nothing pending. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: Not as my mother’s caretaker. Just kidding. I assume he was adjudicated guilty-either pleaded or was found guilty? If so, you need to contact the PA state board that licenses certified nursing assistants and ask them. I would think he would have to have a criminal history check and some sort of official state clearance and therefore he would be ineligible. Check They may have a Q & A section on their site or a contact number. Good luck.

Do I need a bill of sale to prove a prior transfer of real estate?

Q: I am purchasing a piece of property from an individual, he is the youngest of three children. His mother has dementia and is in an assisted living home, he has power of attorney. He has a warranty deed that states that he received the property from his mother for a sum of money. My closing agent has a copy of this deed and is asking for a bill of sale or bank account to show the transfer of money, in case one of the other children try to take the property. Is this necessary or does the warranty deed take care of this? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: No, it is not required, however, I think your closing agent is exercising due diligence as I would in this situation. Two potential concerns. One, is that it was a transfer without consideration (no actual money paid). If that happened, and his mother needs to apply for Medicaid in the future, or is receiving Medicaid benefits right now, Medicaid would ask for the record of the transfer. If no consideration was paid, there could be a problem and the home could potentially be subject to a Medicaid lien The second concern is that the other children didn’t agree to or don’t even know about the transfer. I think it is best to be cautious.

What if probate can’t find heirs to accept timeshare?

Q: If probate names beneficiary after beneficiary to accept a timeshare and each and one disclaims the timeshare, how deeply into the decedent’s, “family tree” will the probate continue to search for some remote relative? (White Oak, PA)

A: The Executor or Administrator has the duty to use due diligence in finding heirs. This will involve paying for a genealogical search. If no heirs are found or heirs are found, and the remaining heirs disclaim. The attorney will have to close the estate. the timeshare will lapse and eventually escheat to the PA Department of Revenue Unclaimed Property Division. Should an heir later come forward, they can apply for the unclaimed property by filing out a form and producing required paperwork.

I’m out on bail, hit a car and took off. Will my bond be revoked?

Q: I got arrested for a crime that I did not commit, and I am out on $30,000 bond. I had an accident last night. My airbag came out and it was like being punched in the face. I couldn’t see a thing and I swiped another vehicle. At that point I was in shock all I remember is being at my boyfriend’s house after that. Will they revoke my bail bonds for this? (Evans City, PA)

A: If you are arrested for leaving the scene of an accident, (75 PA C.S.A. Sec. 3743) the DA could petition the court to revoke or raise your bond. It depends on how your county normally handles such matters. I would consult with an attorney regarding the intimate details this new event for advice on how to proceed and what options you have.

Can a stroke patient appoint a new power of attorney after being declared incompetent?

Q: A month ago, my mother, an incredibly healthy, independent 76 yr. old had a stroke and a heart attack. She lived but missed the critical window to dissolve a blood clot. Since the stroke, she has been on a host of medications which she and I both believe are causing her to be very sick, confused, unable to communicate clearly, and above all, decline rapidly. I’m with my mom every day. She confides in me and I know what she wants. Recently, while in Kaiser ER, she appointed me to make all decisions for her care should she become incapacitated. I signed the paper there and at her nursing facility when she first got there. The very next day, I was shocked to bump into her old friend at this nursing facility, who said she had just signed the same papers there and is now her new POA! My mom does NOT want this! A former trustee in my mom’s original will, she was removed last year when my mom modified the will. She immediately began to insist I hand over my mom’s checkbooks, alarm code, house keys, credit cards, & has since locked me out of the house! We don’t agree on ANYTHING about Mom’s plan of care. My mom wants to come home, but she won’t let her! Please help? (Scott Twp., PA)

A: This is a terrible situation, and you need legal counsel. If you were appointed Guardian, the guardianship would trump the POA. As a child, you would have standing to be her Guardian, than an “old friend”, unless you are not fit by state law to be Guardian. You will need to consult with an attorney. If your attorney can examine the POA this old friend has, he can determine if it is compliant with PA state law as well as advise you on filing to be her guardian. Regarding being locked out of the home, were you living there? If so, the old friend must follow the PA Landlord Tenant Act and give you appropriate notice. That will at least give you a month or two in the home.

How can I change an address on a durable POA?

Q: In 1988, while living in Pittsburgh, my wife and I had durable powers of attorney created. Nothing has changed except we now live in Florida. How can I update the addresses? (Swissvale, PA)

A: Powers of Attorneys are state specific. Many states require a POA to strictly comply with state law. If it does not, the POA can be rejected by anyone to whom it is presented, such as a banks or medical provider. I would have new estate planning documents drafted by a FLA attorney.

Can I be sued for Filial responsibility if my mother in law lives in PA and I live in FLA?

Q: My mother in law lives in PA. She is controlling, verbally abusive and poorly manages money. My fiancé wants nothing to do with her. Could my mother in law sue us for Filial responsibility? Nothing has happened yet, and she is not in nursing care. (Clearwater, FLA)

A: It is not your mother in law who would have a claim against you. Filial law was designed as a cause of action for a medical service provider against certain family members for unpaid service provided to an indigent person. If this were to happen in your scenario, it would likely be a suit brought by a nursing home, rehab or hospital if your mother’s care needs were not covered by insurance or her social security income or whatever other income or assets she has. If this potentially would happen, the fact that you are a resident of FLA would make a lawsuit more challenging for a PA based medical service provider.