Q: Our dad was hospitalized with a stroke and pneumonia, and he has a will. My sister and I knew we were getting this property in the will, but the will was 125 miles away and we did not want at that point to leave his side for that length of time to see what the rest of the will read for fear of him dying before we returned. He could not speak because of the stroke so we had to ask questions and he would answer yes or no by hand squeezes. He instructed us to transfer his house through power of attorney to our joint names and we did. It turned out we probably should not have, because I think he was not thinking properly at that point do to drugs and the stroke, and my sister and I were grief stricken and tired from being by his side until he died. Since we were getting the house by will anyway, in hind sight it did not seem to make any sense to transfer it, so we figured he knew something we did not. But, I do not think he was thinking right at that time. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: Assuming the POA authorized you to transfer real estate or make gifts to yourselves, and even if it didn’t, if no other family members are complaining or you haven’t violated state law, you should be OK. No harm, no foul. If, on the other hand, you transferred his real estate to yourselves with the POA when other family members were to inherit the real estate through the will, there might be a concern. In PA, a transfer in anticipation of death (within 1 year) will subject the entire value of the property transferred to inheritance tax with a $3000.00 exclusion. The only other concern would be Medicaid. If your father was receiving Medicaid benefits, they may have a claim against his estate. If you transferred property out of his estate, Medicaid will have a claim against the real estate as part of his estate as it was transferred in anticipation of his death. If you did this transfer with knowledge of his Medicaid status, you have committed Medicaid fraud but will probably not be prosecuted criminally if the house is still in your name.