Category Archives: Blog and FAQ

Can I be evicted from heir’s property if I am an heir and have paid the taxes for 14 years?

Q: My 83 and 91-year-old aunts are trying to sell the land. Neither one has ever paid taxes on this property nor have they lived here since the 50’s. I inherited the mobile home on the property after caring for my 76-year-old dad who died in 07 I moved to care for him after my mother died in 04 when I became an heir. I am 66 years old, never delinquent on taxes for property or my inherited mortgage for this land. I paid taxes, my mother paid them before, my grandmother paid them since the ’50’s. I am a veteran and a retired CPS worker and suffer from PTSD and anxiety. Can my aunts evict me just because they are older heirs? On my retirement income I can’t afford to move, and my mobile home is bricked in. Thank you for any advice that you can give me. (Lucerne Mines, PA)

A: There is not enough information for me to answer this. I suggest you gather the deeds, wills and any other documents you can and see a lawyer. It will likely come down to who at this time owns the property. If your aunts are the only heirs, they own it and I don’t understand why you had been paying property tax on it. If you are an heir along with your aunts, you have options. In that case, the three of you will need to reach an agreement. If they want their money, you may be forced to buy them out. If they don’t want their money out of the land, perhaps they will agree to execute a new deed which has your share pass to their heirs after their death and give you a life estate to live on the property. If they are agreeable to letting you live there, and do not want money, you have some options.

I am the borrower on a vehicle loan but not the owner

Q: I am the borrower of a $21,000 Jeep loan. My ex-boyfriend passed away and he is the owner-he is on the title. Where does this leave me and how can I get paid back??  Am I able to trade in his vehicle if his mother or wife sign off on it? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: If he is on the certificate of title to the Jeep, and you are on the bank loan, the Jeep is owned by his estate and will pass to the heirs in his will, or if no will, to his intestate heirs. It is not a good situation to be contractually bound to pay for something that you do not own. I would need to know what the facts were that led this arrangement-his bad credit and he was the principle driver? If you were the one paying for this for his benefit, hopefully the mother and wife will be agreeable and sign it over to you. If not, and they want to liquidate the vehicle, you may be able to file a claim against his estate if one is filed. I suggest a consultation with an attorney with whom you can share all the missing facts and documents.

Will I get arrested for trespassing at Brownsville General Hospital?

Q: I like going through abandoned places just to look. I’ve always wanted to go there. As far as I know, nobody has ever been arrested for going there. I don’t know if the police showed up when the people were there or not. I’ve been trying to find haunted/abandoned places to go and this hospital came up. As far as I know nobody owns the land. Even if nobody owns the land are you still able to get arrested? I would like to know so I don’t go there one day and got arrested. I am 18. (Jefferson Hills, PA)

A: I would bet that somebody owns the land. I would also bet that there are “no trespassing” signs and locked gates and doors which would suffice to give someone notice that they are not welcome to loiter there. If you are adventurous, you will go at your own risk. Young people and paranormal enthusiasts are attracted to these places. If you are caught, you may be given a warning but you may also be given a citation for criminal trespassing. If you are cited, plead not guilty, and request a hearing. If you explain your interests and reasons to the judge, you may luck out and be given a warning. Additionally, be careful if you choose to do this. These places are unlit, have deteriorated and can be quite unsafe. A friend of a friend fell one-story down an open stairwell at the old Dixmont State Hospital. He was stuck with a broken leg and laid there all night before being found the next morning. He supposedly was tormented by spirits all night and has never been the same and has turned super religious.

What criminal sex charges will I be facing?

Q: I’m 28 years old and from Pittsburgh. I was on an online dating website and I talked to a girl. After a while of talking she told me she was 15. I am from another state where sex is legal at 14 and I have been sexually active since I was 14. I told her I didn’t mind that she was 15 because I didn’t know it was illegal in PA. Then me and her started to exchange nude pictures. We made plans to meet at the movies. Then I get a message on my phone from her saying that the police had all the transcripts and were going to arrest me soon and that when I was walking around looking for her at the movies it was just to get me on camera to prove I was there. Then she tells me she is from the activist group POP SQUAD on you tube that catch criminals for sex crimes and post the conversations. I looked them up and there are 1000s of videos and the police actively work with them. My question is what kind of charges I am looking at and what are the punishments for those charges? (Cranberry Twp., PA)

A: It doesn’t matter what the law is in the state in which you previously resided. You are bound by the laws of the jurisdiction in which you allegedly commit a crime. I also find it strange that any state allows adults to have sex with minors age 14, but I only know the laws of PA. Recordings of the telephone conversation, if they exist, would not be admissible under PA wiretap laws unless you consented to the recording. If there are emails with photos and she appears to be under age 16, you may be charged with an internet sex crime. If you went to meet her, they may have you on an attempt of a felony solicitation of a minor. However, walking around a movie theater may not be enough. My suggestion is to not discuss this on the internet anymore nor discuss it with anyone other than an attorney that you hire. I have not had a case like this in several years. The last one I had, my client drove to a Walmart to meet a girl and he was nabbed inside the entrance doors of Walmart by the County Police. Everything about this sounds strange, especially if you haven’t been contacted by the police. It also sounds strange that she is telling you the police will arresting you soon. If the police were involved, they would not tell her to say that. This group may not be who they appear to be on the internet. I would not talk to them at all and certainly do not pay money to anyone. I would keep my fingers crossed, lay low for a while and if you hear from the police, do not make any statements to them-nothing- and hire a lawyer and follow his advice explicitly.

Should I take 30-day ARD for simple possession of marijuana?

Q: I was pulled over for a traffic violation while away at college and was charged with possession of a small amount of marijuana and paraphernalia. I understand that the possibility of being drug tested varies county by county, but I was wondering if Berks County was one that mandates drug tests with their ARD program. My ARD program is a 30 day one. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: I would consult with a lawyer before you do anything. You might want to consider trying to get Probation Without Verdict on this first offense, if available. You might want to save the ARD card for your first DUI.

How much time will I get for a hit and run while on DUI probation?

Q: I recently had a hit and run and I’m under DUI license suspension. I am on five years IIP probation. How much time am I facing? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: Driving under a DUI suspension will get you a 60-day suspension added on to your DUI suspension, assuming this is a first Section 1543 b offense, as well as a $500.00 fine. If you hit an attended vehicle which resulted in serious bodily injury to the other driver, it is a Felony 3. If you hit a vehicle which was attended but the other driver was not injured, it is a Misdemeanor 3. If you hit an unattended vehicle, it is a Summary offense. If you are convicted of the Misdemeanor 3 or Felony 3 while on probation, you could conceivably face jail time on the probation violation because your judge on the DUI can sentence you to a probation violation which could be more incarceration. You may receive a notice of probation violation from your Probation Officer and he could have you detained pending the outcome of your new misadventure. I would contact a lawyer as soon as possible to be prepared for what is coming your way and get ahead of it. Also, I must mention, the misdemeanor and felony damage to attended vehicles will carry an additional license suspension on top of the others. I would get together with a lawyer to prepare for what is coming. I would also invest in a DUI bicycle.

Can IRA value be estimated on the PA-REV-1500 or need to be exact?

Q: Our father passed last June, and my brother is executor. My sister handled disbursing the IRA split 5 ways. The executor filled out the PA-REV 1500 inheritance tax form and put an estimate which was $260 under. Is that a red flag? Also does the executor need to have a separate bank account from which to pay the inheritance tax or can it be paid from his personal bank account? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: The correct way to value assets on the PA inheritance tax return is to obtain the correct date of death value from the financial institution. When the PA Department of Revenue audits the return, it is possible that they will detect the difference and when they issue their Notice of Appraisement, they will require extra tax to be paid, if the asset is in fact undervalued. There is a bit of confusion as to what is going on here. Are there other estate assets? Is there a will and if so does it permit inheritance tax owed on non-probate assets to be paid from probate money? If this IRA is the only asset, inheritance tax can be paid by one heir, two heirs, or all heirs from their personal accounts. As long as it is paid, the DOR does not care by whom. I would pay for a consultation with an estate attorney to make sure you are doing this correctly and if it is determined that you are not, let the attorney handle this. You have potential income tax issues with any IRA. It may be beneficial to the heirs to pass the income tax on this IRA to the heirs to report on their individual income tax returns instead of accounting for income on the estate 1041 and paying the much higher tax rate.

In Pittsburgh is the public able to attend domestic violence trials?

Q: If you want context, continue reading. If not, scroll to the bottom to see the actual question. Thanks in advance. In 2013 an ex-boyfriend strangled me. At the time the courts didn’t deem the offense worthy of more than a misdemeanor. He stole my car after the assault…to this day it boggles my mind that stealing my car was a greater offense (felony) than rendering me unconscious and cutting off my air supply during a pregnancy, but whatever. Anyway, felony dropped, he walked with a misdemeanor, and a few months in jail. Fast forward to 2018, the dockets indicate he’s been charged for the same type of offense again against yet another woman, yet this time the charges they are bringing forth are F2 charges for strangulation. Preliminary already happened, trial this month. Child endangerment charge added in the mix, I’m told he did this to the mom in front of her child. I won’t get my hopes up. Likely they’ll be lowered to a misdemeanor. None the less, at the risk of sounding salty, I would really like to be present to watch him get hauled away on a felony this time. Am I allowed to be there, just sitting quietly among the courtroom seats, or are DV trials private proceedings? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: Yes, you can. Criminal proceedings are open to the public. Anyone can stroll through the Allegheny Courthouse on any given day and much like a shopping mall, enter a number of courtrooms and check out the wares. Homicide trials, shootings, DUI pleas, sentencings, motions to suppress evidence. It is like real court TV. You might also want to talk to the Assistant DA who is handling the case. In some cases, the prosecution is permitted to introduce evidence of prior events if there is a similar pattern of behavior by the defendant. The Allegheny County DA has done it in sex crime cases.

Will social security deposit a SS check into guardianship account?

Q: My aunt has Alzheimer’s and has been found mentally unfit. I have been appointed plenary guardian by the court. She is in a nursing home. Her son-in-law had authority to sign checks on her account, but no power of attorney or other authority. He sought to have the Public Administrator appointed as her guardian. I intervened, as she is my aunt and I am willing to act on her behalf, and I was appointed plenary guardian of her person and estate. I have Letters of Appointment. I call to Social Security to ask that her monthly check be moved into a new checking account. I was met with much resistance, and I was told that my paperwork was meaningless. How to proceed? (Bulger, PA)

A: Social Security does not have to deposit the check into your guardian account. The Social Security Administration has its own system which consists of appointed representative payees who receive payments for recipients. It has its own separate application process to become a representative payee. Unfortunately, you must apply. The fact that you are a relative and were appointed by the court as a Guardian will not hurt.

Can I have my elderly parent involuntarily committed?

Q: One of my elderly parents has randomly run away in the middle of the night and may or may not still be in this state. This parent has shown to have signs of paranoid Schizophrenia and has even driven their vehicle recklessly knowing full well that it has not been properly maintained. I feel by having this parent involuntarily committed they can receive the care they deserve, and also apply for Social Security Disability if they are found to have a disability in the process of being examined. My other parent has told me I have no right to have that other person involuntarily committed even though I am that person’s son, and I’m also above 21+. What rights do I have as their son? What can I do to have my elderly parent involuntarily committed so they can receive the help they are trying to avoid. In the end they may stay or go in our relationship, but the end game goal is to help them the best I can instead of letting them put others at risk. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: You can file for a 302 under the Mental Health Act however, your parent would need to be located first. The process is not difficult, but whether a delegate will agree that your parent is a danger to themselves or others and commit them, is another question. I sense that you are younger, and your other parent may have a reason for not wanting to commit this person. I think you should consult with an elder law attorney who handles mental health commitments and guardianships for an opinion. There are more facts needed to be known and it may be worth the consultation before you pull the trigger on this.

ELDER LAW, MENTAL HEALTH ACT, INVOLUNTARY COMMITMENT, SECTION 302