Category Archives: Estate Law

Am I responsible for my deceased mothers medical debt?

Q: Mom was in assisted living up in Michigan after she moved in with my sister. She incurred approximately $2300 in debt to Omnicare, the pharmaceutical company used by the facility. The debt started accruing in 2016 because Omnicare was not billing correctly. They also failed to notify the facility to which they kept delivering this supposedly uncovered medicine. Mom used the medicine for years and it was always covered, before and after Omnicare. I began working with Omnicare trying to resolve this issue as soon as I learned of the problem, but to no avail. Mom had two insurances for drug coverage – one through the State of Michigan and the other Medicaid. I just heard from Omnicare for the third time since mom passed in Feb 2018. This time, they asked if mom’s estate went to probate. I cannot remember if that was asked before, but there was no probate. What little money mom had at the time of her death was applied to her burial cost. She owned no property, no stocks or bonds or investments. She was on Medicaid. Before I speak with Omnicare again, I would like to know if I am correct – that I am not responsible for this debt. (West Homestead, PA)

A: It used to be that family members had no personal liability for the debts of a decedent, unless that family member signed the contract with the provider to guarantee payment. However, some states have passed “filial” law statutes which permit providers to recover against certain family members (children included) for medical debts of an indigent person. PA has a filial law statute. I do not recall Michigan having a filial responsibility law statute, but I would check with a Michigan attorney. Whatever you do, do not agree with Omnicare or anyone else to pay these debts.

Should I put utilities in my name?

Q: I lived with elderly mother all my life. All the utilities were in her name, but I paid the bills. She died 2 years ago. I still live in the house and still pay the bills. Shortly after her death I told the alarm company that she died, and they said there was no need to change anything because I had continued to pay the bill. But now I’m wondering if I should try to change the name on the utilities and how. (Sharpsburg, PA)

A: As you can see, the utility provider mainly cares about being paid, not who is paying. I know of no such law that mandates you change the name on these accounts. Perhaps someone else does. I would however change the name on the accounts. It will establish a credit history with the providers attributable to you as a payee. As far as real estate taxes go, you need to update who is living in the house. This is to avoid wrongly benefiting from any senior citizen’s discounts if you are not a senior citizen. I would also inform the property insurer as to her death and request the account to be switched into your name. For all you know there is a clause in the policy that negates coverage if your mother died or moved.

What if probate can’t find heirs to accept timeshare?

Q: If probate names beneficiary after beneficiary to accept a timeshare and each and one disclaims the timeshare, how deeply into the decedent’s, “family tree” will the probate continue to search for some remote relative? (White Oak, PA)

A: The Executor or Administrator has the duty to use due diligence in finding heirs. This will involve paying for a genealogical search. If no heirs are found or heirs are found, and the remaining heirs disclaim. The attorney will have to close the estate. the timeshare will lapse and eventually escheat to the PA Department of Revenue Unclaimed Property Division. Should an heir later come forward, they can apply for the unclaimed property by filing out a form and producing required paperwork.

Parents died, I opened an estate, what deed do I use?

Q: Parents bought a home in1972 and lived in it 22 years! Me, the oldest son was their caretaker. Parents died, and I probated filed. I have short certificates. What deed do I use to change names? There is a mortgage, I want to refinance.

A: A deed coming from an estate is normally a fiduciary deed. If there is a mortgagee, you need to notify the mortgagee to see if they approve of a new deed. Some mortgage agreements contain a due-on-sale clause which allows the mortgagee to foreclose if there is new deed filed. It may not be wise to change title on the home if you are going to sell it as there might be capital gain. You also have inheritance tax issues to address. The estate may have other creditors beside the mortgagee. You should be doing this through an attorney.

How do I get a copy grandmother’s will?

Q: I have personally seen my grandmother’s will. She had copies in her house. She had a stroke and my aunt moved her out of state to a nursing home in Tampa Florida. She has since passed away, two days after my mother (so no help getting info from her). I believe my Aunt maybe trying to hide the fact my grandmother had a will. I know her grandchildren were left a fair amount of money. My aunt is also POA. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: You will need to hire a lawyer in FLA to investigate and possibly file a court action. Before you do that, you can call and check what the procedure in that county is to see if a will has been filed. They may have a website, or you may be able to get an answer on the telephone. If a will has not been filed and you truly believe there is one, the attorney can begin to request it in writing from your aunt and if unsuccessful, he can petition the court to order her to product it. Having an attorney involved will cost you money.

My mother died in FLA without a will

Q: My sister who lives in FL (I’m in PA) got an attorney and become the executor. It seems the lawyer is not working with me and will not talk to me. I think I need to get my own lawyer and if I do, will my portion of the estate have to pay both? I never signed anything. Also, can the executor avoid going into probate as she is not dividing the estate equally. I also know she uses marijuana. Can I ask for a drug test and get her removed as she is not making good decisions? Any help would be great appreciated. Thank you. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: If an estate has been opened in FLA and your mother died without a will, you are likely to be an heir under FLA law if there is anything to inherit. If the attorney for the estate is not responding to you, that is not good. I would send him or her a certified letter containing all your questions. If you get no response, you may want to see if the county has a probate court website for you to look for her estate or call the Probate Court and see what you can find out. If your inquiries are not satisfied, you should call a lawyer in that county who handles estates. There is a process involved in petitioning the court to remove an executor. An attorney in FLA can advise you if this is necessary.

My mother died with no will, a car and $1000

Q: She has no spouse. She has about $1000 in a checking account and an older car, Blue Book Value $2000, which is currently sitting in our driveway. We are not using it. The registration is expired, and it requires repairs. She has no life insurance or other assets of any kind. Her current medical bills/nursing home payments due will wipe out the checking account. We have limited resources after caring for her for years and cannot afford a lawyer, court fees, etc. We would like to pay off her debts as far as possible utilizing her assets. How can we do this legally without incurring expenses for ourselves? Is there any way to just walk away from this and let the creditors and state figure it out? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: Assuming she has $1000 and an old car, you might want to do nothing. You can get the $1000 from the bank under section 3101 of the Probate, Estate and Fiduciary Code if you are a child and go to the bank with a copy of the paid funeral bill and a death certificate. The car can be sold through AAA or other motor vehicle transfer agent. It will cost you thousands of dollars to open an estate and then you will be harassed by creditors. If your mom received Medicaid, hang on to the $1000 for about a year to see if the PA Department of Human Services will file a Medicaid claim against her. They can claim the $1000 as an exception to Rule 3101. You can file an inheritance tax return and “0” it out as I am sure someone paid more than $1000 in funeral expenses which are deductions. Again, you could do nothing and leave the money sit. You will have no personal liability. Her estate, if someone opens one, is the only party who will owe her bills.

Do I need to probate my mom’s estate?

Q: My mom passed away two years ago. She lived with me and I paid all her bills. I paid $13,000 for her funeral expenses. Recently, I received refunds from the hospital for approx. $2000 in checks for copays when my mom was paying. I helped her pay them. I didn’t probate the estate because I was told it’s insolvent and there wasn’t any need to do so. Now I have these checks made out to her name. What do I do? The $600 in her bank account was split between myself and my brother. The credit cards are still unpaid, but they were told her estate is insolvent. Where do I go from here? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: To answer your question I would need more information on the extent and type of assets and debts. The Estate Recovery program managed by the PA Department of Human Services can seek recovery of monies paid out to a Medicaid recipient, from their estate. If there no estate opened, it is doubtful if they will pursue recovery. However, they can go after other monies held in your mother’s name with others. You may want to consult with an attorney to determine if it is worth opening an estate. From what you describe, it may not be. You have no duty or obligation to open an estate.

Is a POA entitled to payment from estate?

Q: My father’s personal injury attorneys created a Power of Attorney and I was the Agent. I served in that capacity for about 2.5 years. The estate is being settled exclusively by the probate/estate attorney.

A: Possibly. If the Power of Attorney authorizes payment of a fee for Agent services performed, then yes. If not, then no. If the POA authorizes payment of the Agent, you can submit a bill to the Executor.

How do I find out what was in my mother’s will?

Q: I found out my mother passed away from an ex-son in law that send us a text regarding her funeral services. I had been visiting my mother in California, four times a year because they would not let me bring her to PA to take care of her. She had dementia and it was hard seeing her neglected in their care. I am the only daughter I was pushed away by my brothers. (Ligonier, PA)

A: If your mother had a will and there was a need to file it, the person appointed as her executor in the will would likely have filed it in the Probate Court of the county in which she died. You can call that county’s probate court and see if they can tell you or direct you on how to do a record search. If you find the will and can get a copy of it and still have questions, you would need to consult with a lawyer to review the will. If you need legal representation to challenge the will or find more information, it would be best to hire a lawyer in the same county where she died.