Q: My cousin died 11/18/18 and was buried. He had no funeral insurance or assets. Since I lived with him and was his health guardian I’m stuck with funeral bill. I am on social security, age 67 health issues and stuck with a $6000 bill and no way to pay unless payment schedule is made. I hope someone can assist me. The Funeral home is pressuring me. (Glassport, PA)
A: It won’t be the first time a Funeral Director was “stiffed” for a bill. You must read everything before signing it. Unless you signed to pay for the funeral bill, you are not liable just because you are his cousin. If you did not sign, your cousin’s estate is liable for the bill. Ask the funeral guys to show you the contract that you signed and take it to an attorney. If you did sign this, and you are liable, they will have to sue you unless they negotiate a payment plan with you. The attorney can advise you on whether it is worth defending. On the other hand, the funeral directors need paid like everyone else. If you don’t feel good about walking away from this and you truly want to pay, they will work out a payment plan. They may be very agreeable to payments if they know you are not legally liable for the bill.
Q: I was pulled over and received a police criminal complaint in the mail. I did everything by the book when I was pulled over. They have my name wrong multiple times, the year of my vehicle and there are inconsistencies with the time of the incident. Also, they have that I had told them that I do not have proof of insurance, but I do and when I told him it would take me a minute to find it. They told me not to worry about it and in the report, they have that I did not have it whatsoever, but that is not part of the charges, so it may be irrelevant. (Monroeville, PA)
A: Mistakes and typos in legal documents, believe it or not, are not unusual. However, I would note these inconsistencies and tell them to your lawyer. Proof of insurance is not really an issue if you were not charged but bring proof of insurance to the hearing in case it is mentioned.
Q: My daughter’s mother left state with my child ten years ago without permission. We have a court orders custody agreement spelling out exact days and times for my visits and expressly starting a move out of state isn’t permitted. The courts and law enforcement were no help in finding or bringing my daughter home. Through sleuthing of my own, I FINALLY found her, have solid proof (mother wrote address on court papers) and have a paper trail documenting everything over the last decade. Do I have a case for getting my daughter back, even though it’s been so long? Child has been residing in Pennsylvania for 10 years if that makes a difference. (Baden, PA)
A: You need to see an experienced family law attorney with whom you can share the entire story which we do not have here, and which is hard to relate in this limited forum. My first question is in this day of electronic communications, how has it taken 10 years to find your daughter? If your reasons are legitimate-identity changes, subterfuge, etc., it does sound like she violated a court order. An attorney can tell you where to file. Jurisdiction still may be in Allegheny County, as I assume the child was born here and there was an open custody case, albeit ten years ago. As for criminal charges, such as interference with custody, you will have to run that past the DA. The ten-year period that has passed does not help you unless, as mentioned, there were legitimate reasons.
Q: On 11/14/2018 I was caught shoplifting an item that was $5. The man who detained me said he recognized me from stealing there before (an item that was $25). He said he wasn’t going to call the cops and he didn’t. He just took down my info from my driver’s license, my Social Security Number, the make and model of my car, and took my picture. I also signed a letter admitting what I stole and wrote down what I stole. There was another target employee in there as a witness. Two weeks later I received a letter from The Law Offices of Michael Ira Asen, P.C. stating I owe $175. If I don’t pay this, what will happen? Should I pay it? I’ve researched and seen many lawyers say that you should not pay it because it’s an empty threat. However, I’m scared if I don’t, they will take legal action. I’m terrified. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: Do not pay this. I believe this attorney is located in another state, like NJ or NY. He will not come to Pittsburgh to sue you for $175.00. He has some scheme with Target, whereby he will send them a chunk of what he collects from you. His collection has nothing to do with any potential criminal case against you if Target chooses to file. If you do receive a summary Retail Theft charge from Target, see an attorney.
Q: Our mother passed away in October and we are receiving bills from the hospital and ambulance service. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: In the past, a child or next of kin was never responsible for a family member’s medical bills, unless they signed a contract making them so liable. However, many states, including PA, have adopted “filial responsibility” laws which do hold certain family members responsible for indigent family members who receive unpaid medical treatment. Do not agree to pay this bill when contacted by the hospital or collection agency and contact a lawyer.
Q: I am in a high conflict custody case where the father is constantly in contempt for support and continuously tries to force his way back into our lives. He has several debts with me, most recently for an accident he had while driving one of my cars. I’m just trying to get him to acknowledge his debt or negotiate a way he will pay for the repairs. In doing so, he continuously tells me I am harassing him via email. And I constantly get emails from him that he is going to engage the ADA so we can talk about my problems which is comical at best. I continue to go out on a limb to support his relationship with his daughter – thanks to the courts forcing him on us in the first place after he was absent for 2 years. I shouldn’t have to babysit his time with her so giving him a car is seemingly my best option. I have recently filed for relocation with the court and will hopefully be able to put more distance between us and ultimately accountability on him where it belongs, but these threats of harassment are simply ridiculous. Any advice on how I can get in front of it by sending him a certified letter or anything? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: Keep the communications between the lawyers. If there are no lawyers, do what makes sense. Harassment requires communication for no legitimate purpose. If your emails are purely for legitimate reasons you should not have a problem. Keep all your emails. If you need to send an important document, send it both certified mail, return receipt, and regular mail. Keep all copies of correspondence. If what constitutes harassment continues, talk to the police or an Assistant District Attorney. It sounds like you need an attorney to help you.
Q: We were married for two months and split up. I want to get a divorce.
A: Child support, most likely. Spousal support, alimony pendente lite or alimony, perhaps not. More information is needed to give you a definitive answer. However, if you were married for only two months then separated, you have a good argument to not pay spousal support. (Pittsburgh, PA)
Q: My father passed away and owns the house that I currently live in. He leaves behind a wife who lives in her own home. The house was always only in my father’s name. He is on the deed. So, I am trying to find out what’s the cheapest way to either put it in my mom’s name or to get it in my name. (Moon Township, PA)
A: I am not sure if you mean the wife he left behind is your mother or not. I will assume she is not your mother. You need to confirm whose name the deed is in, whether your father left a will and if so, who inherits the house in the will. If your father is on the deed alone, his will determines to whom it passes. If he has no will, intestate (no will) law decides to whom it passes which in his case is likely to his wife and child or children. The wife would inherit the first 30k and share the balance with the children. If his wife was on the deed with him as husband and wife, it is likely that ownership passes to her under entireties law. If the deed is only in your father’s name, you will need to open an estate and pay inheritance tax to pass the house on to the testate or intestate heirs. Take the deed and will you have to an attorney.
Q: A father died, and he was married with 2 children in that marriage, a twelve-year-old and an eight-year-old. He also had a child from a previous relationship who is 18 years old and attending college. The father had three life insurance policies of $250,000, $250,000, and $200,000 for a total of $700,000. The widowed mother has no intention of giving the 18-year-old step-daughter any money. I don’t know how the policies are named, but I do know the widow does not want the step-daughter to know she received payouts from these policies. Does the eighteen-year- old have a legal claim to any of this life insurance money? (Scott Twp., PA)
A: Insurance policies will be paid to living beneficiaries of the decedent. If there are no living beneficiaries, the policy will likely be paid to the estate of the decedent. If there is no will in place, the proceeds of the policy will go in to the estate and paid to the intestate (no will) heirs. Under PA intestate law, the daughter is an heir. It is possible that the proceeds of this policy could have been addressed in a divorce or prenuptial agreement, which therefore could preempt the intestate or testate laws. If this child was a beneficiary listed on the policy or if there are no living beneficiaries on the policies, she has a chance of receiving money. If the step-mother is hiding the information on the policy, hire a lawyer to threaten her or take her to court.
Q: I work for an apartment complex. Inside a tenant’s apartment she recorded me working and talking about the issues in her apartment. (Wilkins, Twp., PA)
A: If this recording was done secretly, unbeknownst to you, without your consent, no. If the cameras were not hidden then she can film you, for example, like standard security systems. If she audio recorded you, without your knowledge, that is a violation of the PA wiretap tap laws and could subject her to criminal liability. If she was recording you on her phone in plain sight to you, and you keep blabbing on, she is permitted.