Can the value of husband and wife realty be included in an estate?

Q: My father started taking Donepezil for dementia in 2012. In 2013 he had a psychotic episode that required him to be placed at a behavioral health facility and being prescribed Quetiapine. On or about the day he was discharged from the facility my absent brother of 50 years became his Power of Attorney. Since then my brother has done everything to get an early inheritance. My brother even got our parents divorced but the PA Superior Court vacated the divorce and equitable distribution. In 2014 my father changed his Will giving everything to my brother. Now the tricky part is my brother took our father to live in Virginia for the last 5 years of his life, our father died in Virginia, and his Will was probated in Virginia. The real estate is in Pennsylvania. The Virginia attorney says the value of the real estate, along with the personal property located in Pennsylvania, must be included in the estate. If this is true then my mother will get no money, only the real estate. The real estate is valued at $110,000, the personal property $10,000, and the money $105,000. Essentially, if the VA attorney is correct, it is like my mother is buying real estate that belongs to her and my father. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: I am not sure I understand all the facts. Can I assume you are saying that the house is held in the names of your father and mother and the new will has disinherited your mother? If that is correct, ownership will pass by operation of the law of entireties to the surviving parent and not into the estate and be distributed through the will. Under PA law, but I am not certain of VA law, a spouse can elect to inherit against the will. PA law allows a surviving wife to take a 1/3 interest of certain property transferred out of the husband’s name prior to his death but spouse is charged for the value of certain property he or she inherited. I am not sure if it would be wise to do so if VA has a similar statute, but it is something you should discuss with an attorney in VA. The property situated in PA may require the VA attorney to hire counsel in PA for an ancillary estate.

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