Q: My son has custody of his daughter because her mother passed. And, her mother’s mother keeps taking my son to court for visitation. My granddaughter is 12 and she does not want to go over her house anymore. I do believe she is doing this because she does not like my son for what reason I do not know. My granddaughter is becoming stressed out due to this and my son as well. I would like to know if there is anything my son can do. Or if there is anything that you can suggest. I do not want either one of them to keep going thru this. Been going on for two years now. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: There are somewhat recent amendments regarding standing needed for a grandparent to have visitation or custody of a grandchild found in 23 Pa. CS Sec. 5324. If this grandmother has had substantial contact with this child in the past she probably has standing. It will help if your son has an attorney. The attorney may suggest an appointment of a psychologist to assess the situation. He or she could evaluate the parties and advise the court.
Q: I am late paying Arron’s about 30 days. I can’t pay till the 28th of this month. I am scared I can go to jail for not giving back all the property because I gave the TV’s to family members, but I got the furniture. (North Versailles, PA)
A: If you don’t return what was loaned to you in accordance with the lease agreement you signed, yes, you can be held liable under civil, and criminal law. Aarons could file criminal Theft charges against you or similar charges under theft of leased property. Best bet is to retrieve the TV’s from family (C’mon, the Super Bowl is over) and return them. If you cannot do that, you need to have the money to pay for them. (restitution) Whether you go to jail or not would be determined by what you are charged with and your criminal record.
Q: I had 2 rings given to me as I love you gifts by my ex-boyfriend. It’s about $2500 is what the small claims court paper is saying they are worth. That is with insurance included and everything. I left his house and agreed to give them back once I got all my belongings from his home after we broke up. His son busted my TV and destroyed numerous of my items and he gave away some of my stuff to other people. Does he even stand a chance getting the rings back? Nothing was put in writing and we were never engaged. (Forest Hills, PA)
A: It has been a while since I had one of these cases but my recollection is that you do not have to return items that were purely gifts. However, if the gift was conditional, like, I give you this ring if you promise to marry me, it must be returned. The Heart Balm Act, which I believe was adopted by PA, addresses these issues.
Q: My grandmother made a deed to her property 3 years ago. She has lifetime stay. At her death her adult son has lifetime stay. At his death it goes to my 15-year-old son. My grandmother now has dementia in a nursing home. My uncle says he’s going to the court system to take my son’s name off so my uncle can be sole owner of property. He says he needs to do this to keep Medicaid from taking her assets for payment of her care in nursing home. Can he go to a judge and have this deed redone in his name only, taking my minor sons name off the deed with my signature as guardian?
A: I think is possible, assuming your uncle is acting in your grandmother’s best interest in dealing with Medicaid matters and not to benefit himself. However, much more information is needed. Assuming Medicaid is in the picture here, this transfer was done within the 5-year Medicaid look-back period. That could potentially penalize your grandmother to the extent of the fair market value of the house which was transferred. Additionally, there are two consecutive life-estates, from what you describe, one to grandmother then one to herself. In many states, a life estate has a monetary value. Of course, the uncle would need to possess some authority over your grandmother to do anything on her behalf, such as a Power of Attorney or her Guardian.
Q: My dad died from seafood poison in New Orleans, while on holiday. Can I sue here in Pittsburgh? I expect to be appointed administrator of dad’s estate – he died without a will. So, I wonder if I can sue here in state court, or federal court and if I win when suing on behalf of dad, what is his wife entitled to? (New Eagle, PA)
A: Sorry for your loss. As far as jurisdiction in which to sue, I think you must likely sue in Louisiana in state court. Federal Court may have jurisdiction if this restaurant has business contacts in PA, for example, if it is a chain establishment with eateries in this state. In that case you could sue in PA Federal Court. I would consult with an experienced personal injury attorney to assess whether you have a case and where to sue. If there is no will his wife is entitled to inherit under PA intestate (no will) law. She therefore would be entitled under his will to the first 30K and then would share one-half of the balance of his estate with his child or children. She may recover additional money under a survivor’s action, but you would need to confirm this with the PI attorney.
Q: I was my dad’s POA and he passed in June. He had no will. He has a house that is falling down, and I want nothing to do with it. I received a bill for $4,000 from his nursing home. Am I responsible for this? (Cranberry Twp., PA)
A: You are correct, the POA no longer has legal effect. If you didn’t sign the contract for his nursing care, I would not pay it. However, be advised, that PA has adopted filial responsibility which extends liability for nursing home care services provided to indigent persons to certain family members. I do not see nursing homes use this cause of action in my practice however it does exist. I would not pay the bill and let the nursing home explain why you are personally liable. The debts of a deceased persons are the debts of his or her estate. Speak with an attorney about the necessity of opening an estate for your father. It sounds like it may not be advisable.
Q: We were served with a Praecipe for Writ of Summons. It says we have 20 days to respond. What happens if we don’t? Should we contact the Plaintiff’s attorney to see what they are claiming and seeking, or wait to see if they actually file a lawsuit before engaging with them? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: A civil writ in PA is generally used to toll (pause) a statute of limitations to give a plaintiff additional time to prepare and file a complaint with in the designated statute time. For example, if A wants to sue B, and the statute requires the complaint to be filed by 2/1/19, A can file a writ by 2/1/19 and get an extra 20 days (until 2/21/19) to actually file his complaint. Normally, we see this when plaintiffs decide to sue at the last minute for whatever reason. I have also, unfortunately, seen attorneys do this to harass and annoy a party. An attorney did this to my client by filing a civil writ just before trial in Orphan’s Court. I filed a Praecipe for Rule to File a Complaint, which required the attorney to file a Complaint in 20 days. Of course, he did not file a complaint in 20 days as he did not really have a cause of action and only did this to harass and intimidate my client. There are not many attorneys that misuse the rules in such a manner but there are few out there. I would take your papers to an attorney as there is a possibility you may be sued.
Q: Mom is about to be placed in a nursing home. I want to do the action to be completely out of the situation. I would like to make sure Mom gets any and all that I would be getting in the sale. My siblings need money. Everything I feel should be Mom’s as it is hers to begin with. They made sure the nursing home could not get it. I was not there when all was drawn up, the other siblings were. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: There is too much information missing here to advise. For example, does mom have a will, a testamentary trust, a revocable trust or an irrevocable trust? Is anyone on the deed with mom? When was the deed executed? How is mom paying for nursing care? Is there a Medicaid issue? Do any of her children still live in the home as her caretaker for 2 years prior to her Medicaid application? (if there is one). I suggest that you sit down with an attorney and review all the details and the will or trust or whatever documents you have. There are ways to divest yourself of your inheritance. Your mother can execute another will and you can file a renunciation of inheritance once her will is filed, but this is tricky, and you need an attorney to advise you fully before doing so.
Q: I was arrested at Giant Eagle fir an item costing 3.50. I have three priors. A summary from 7 years ago for retail. A second retail and a third that got moved to traffic fine and don’t know why. Would it be best to hire an attorney or just get public defender? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: As stated, a third retail theft is a Felony III. It is not to be taken lightly, but in Allegheny County, I get a lot of these worked out at the District Justice level to a summary. Many people have the view that sending a F3 Retail Theft downtown is a waste of resources. Let’s hope your Assistant DA and police officer have the same view. An attorney would help in such a situation. He might be able to direct you to do certain things before the hearing to put you in a better light by the time the hearing comes around. Drug and alcohol evaluation, possibly? Most retail thefts arise out of drug addiction. Additionally, Public Defenders are generally very good attorneys. They are specializing in one are of law. If you feel a private attorney will give more attention to your case, then choose a private attorney.
Q: It’s been a year since mom and dad passed. My sister moved in with them uninvited, several years ago, and has controlled and abused the house and their finances since they became ill. She hasn’t had any intention of moving so we can go thru their things, to set up sale of the property. My brother is executor, and is very soft spoken, and still paying the utilities from the parent’s savings. Paying for car repairs and new tires for her to drive parent’s cars! It is not right . She has always taken advantage of my parents, even when she has her own money. Never paying or calling pay utilities, car gas, etc. She is driving the wheels off their cars. And, now my brother is still enabling her to continue this behavior. She also won’t move out of their house. It’s keeping us from getting the house and contents ready for auction. Can she keep us from going in the house, to prep for sale? And should my brother still be paying all her utilities and upkeep on mom and dad’s cars for her to drive? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: Assuming the home is part of the residuary estate, and not specifically gifted to someone by the will, an executor has a strict duty to take control of estate real estate and prepare it for sale. This includes in a prompt and efficient manner, the cleaning of and preparing the property for sale, maintaining the property, listing it for sale and depositing the net proceeds in the estate account. This duty can become a little murky when family is involved such as in your case, with a sister living in the home. The duty still exists but can be extended or modified if all heirs agree. If not, the duties of the executor can legally be invoked.