Category Archives: Blog and FAQ

How do I get my sister out of my house? She does pay $200.00 month.

Q: I have asked my sister to leave for months. She refuses. She pays me $200 month. Do I need to not accept any money? She only draws $500 from SSD. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: She is a month-to-month tenant under the PA Landlord-Tenant Act and therefore you must follow the landlord tenant laws and evict her.

If you are a minor can a probation officer watch you pee?

Q: I am on juvenile probation, and someone told me this is not allowed. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: If you are female and he is a male (or opposite sexes), it should not be happening. If you are the same sex and he or she is legitimately monitoring urine tests, it is allowed. If it goes beyond that, you need to report it. (Pittsburgh, PA)

I received aid of execution from a Capital One card from years ago.

Q: They already have a judgement. I own nothing. I do have a bank account in me and my husband name. Car is in both names. I do not own it make payments. I have no savings account and our income tax return is in both names. Can they garnish my wages in PA or take my tax return refund? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: As long as everything you own in in both names, you are shielded by the husband and wife entireties doctrine.

Can you get probation on a Felony 3 charge?

Q: My fiancé had 4 charges against him and it got reduced to 1 charge to an f3 he took the plea bargain that the public defender told him to take. The judge took his plea and said she advises him he might face a possible seven years and a $15,000.00 fine. What does that mean. Will he get probation, or does he go straight to doing that time? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A:  The Judge must read the statutory maximum a defendant is facing at sentencing but rarely sentences to the statutory maximum. The judges follow a matrix called the “sentencing guidelines” and normally sentence within the guidelines. If they do not sentence within the guidelines, they must state specific reasons on the record for issuing a sentence above or below the guidelines. If they do not they can be appealed. The sentencing guideline matrix factors in the Offense Gravity Score (OGS) based on how serious the crime is and the Prior Record Score (PRS) based on how many and what type of prior criminal convictions the person has. In larger counties such as Allegheny or Philadelphia, having no criminal record or having a minor criminal record can be a probation sentence on a Felony 3. Smaller counties tend to issue higher sentences, but I think with no criminal record or a minor one, probation is possible. You should ask the Public Defender. They do this every day and are very competent. The PD has the guidelines in her head and will know the tendencies of the judge when it comes to sentencing.

Can we pay ourselves for caring for our 90-year mother?

Q: Mom still lives at home. We have someone come in throughout the day but my three siblings and myself stay with her overnight and do 24 hour shifts on weekends. We’ve been caring for her for 3 years and have never paid ourselves because we didn’t know if we can do that. Also, if we are allowed, can we pay ourselves back? In the event she needs to go into a home and runs out of money and goes on Medicaid, will they come back on us to recoup the money that we paid to ourselves for her care? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: Yes, as it stands now, if you have no written caretaker contract in place and you pay yourself as you go along, or try to pay yourself retroactively, this could potentially make your mother ineligible for Medicaid if she applies within the next five years. Medicaid would look at these payments as transfers for no consideration or fair value unless they are made pursuant to a written caretaker agreement signed by your mother if she is competent or by her Agent under a valid Power of Attorney.

What is the Pennsylvania law for stacking drug charges?

Q: My husband has multiple drug charges. Many are the same charges multiple times. We just want to know what the PA law is against stacking of charges. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: A judge can stack or run what is called run “consecutive”, each count on a Criminal Information. However, many crimes which contain the same elements and arise out of the same event, merge for sentencing, and therefore the judge can combine the sentence on more than one charge for sentencing purposes. I would have to look at the charges to opine as to which charges merge.

Can I be charged with possession if drugs were found in driver’s car?

Q: I was a passenger in a vehicle. We stopped to pump gas and I was in the store with the driver. When we came out of the store an officer called the driver over to him for an arrest warrant. The car was searched, and a syringe and 1 stamp bag were found. I was released. The driver is now claiming it was mine. Can I be charged? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: Yes, you can be charged. Can you be convicted? It depends on the facts. Where contraband is found in a car that both occupants had access to, it is difficult for the Commonwealth to convict one of the occupants if both are denying. Him owning the car works in your favor. If the contraband was found in the glove box or in the consul, that works in your favor. If under your seat, that works in his favor. Consult with a criminal defense attorney and be prepared for your Preliminary Hearing.

With a power of attorney, can I evict my brother from mom’s home?

Q: My brother moved in with our mother to help take care of her 17mths ago. He didn’t have to pay any bills, grocery’s or maintenance in this time-period. She’s now in a nursing home. He said he can no longer care for her. Now he refuses to pay rent or help with the bills for the nursing home. He is living in our mother’s home and driving her car. He verbally said he would pay $500 monthly. I supplied him with deposit slips for this money to go directly into our mothers account to help pay for the nursing home. Can I evict him being I have power of attorney over our mothers estate? (Penn Hills, PA)

A: If your mother is mentally competent and wants your brother to stay in her home and drive her car, that is her decision, not yours. If she is incompetent, you can act in her best interest, if your POA complies with state law and permits you to manage her real estate. If so, you may have to evict him through court since he has been living there so long. You would start this process at a District Justice office. If your mother is receiving funding such as Medicaid, rental payments to her may disqualify her. I would review all the details with an attorney.

Can an elderly relative change their will if demented?

Q: My Aunt’s property was left to a nephew and his wife and family. Other family members have been talking to the aunt who has dementia and now she has changed the will. Is this legal? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: Your aunt can only change her will by executing another one, a new will, which is in compliance with the law. Plus, she can only execute a new will if she is competent. Dementia does not necessarily mean she is incompetent. There are varying degrees of dementia. If she executed a new will and you are suspicious of the circumstances, you should review all the facts with an attorney.

What can I do to gain ownership of my home of 11 1/2 years?

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Q: I rented a home from my grandpa. Upon his passing he made sure verbally to let everyone know what he wanted done with said house. I already pay water, sewer, garbage and power, the only thing I don’t pay is insurance. Upon his passing there was no will to be found. When his two sons who admitted to knowing what their dad wanted and the rest of the family had a meeting, his youngest son, informed us that he will not do what my granpa wanted if I get the house. He stated he would fight. Not only have I lived there for almost 12 years, but I was also taking care of my grandpa in his home. (West Mifflin, PA)

Q: If your grandpa had no will and is not survived by a wife, his estate passes under intestate (no will) law. Assuming he is on the deed with your grandmother who is deceased, the house will pass to his children under PA intestate law. There is not much you can do legally, that I know of. You might investigate if you can buy out the interest of the son who won’t cooperate. Perhaps you can get a mortgage on the home to pay him off. I would consult with an estate or real estate lawyer for a definitive answer.