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.
Q: The surviving parent dies while residing in a nursing home. She has been covered by Medicaid for past 4 years. The Will reads that the only child is her beneficiary. Knowing that Medicaid is entitled to some portion of the parent’s estate (less than $2,000), is Medicaid entitled to the full amount or only a share of the residual estate? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: Generally, Medicaid will be entitled to a share of probate assets depending on the amount of their claim. If it is necessary to open an estate, the estate is required to notify the PA Department of Human Services (DHS), who manages the federal Medicaid program, of the death. DHS will reply to the estate with an Estate Recovery Statement of Claim, which will inform the estate how much DHS is seeking as a claim. The estate then needs to address DHS in writing regarding settling the claim or explaining with supporting documentation why the claim cannot be settled (i.e., insufficient assets), whether an estate is opened or not. If the remaining estate of this person is $2,000.00, it is doubtful Medicaid will seek a claim, but you never know. You may be able to shelter the money with a funeral related expense. I suggest you consult with an attorney regarding this matter.
Q: My elderly neighbor recently passed away. I approached the executor of her estate to cut down tree! She stated she had more important issues to deal with. What is my recourse? Can I sue? (Swissvale, PA)
A: If you do have a cause of action, or law suit, it would be against the estate, which is good. When an estate is opened, all you need to do is file a claim in Orphan’s Court, which is a one-page document. You don’t need to sue in the traditional sense, by filing and serving a complaint and then having a trial, all in compliance with the rules of civil procedure. As to whether you have a legitimate case, you should sit down with and attorney to review all the facts. Causation is important as well as whether you have notified the deceased person in the past about the tree roots encroaching on the property. I would try to talk to the Executor. I would also get an opinion in writing that the tree roots have caused the damage and what it will cost to make repairs.
Q: I have the original will with signatures, however, it is not notarized. The will has 2 executors who have not started any legal proceedings to settle my mother’s estate due to them not wanting the responsibility. The estate includes a house and an Allstate insurance claim. The will states that my mother’s four children and her boyfriend (executor #1) are to be willed her house, belongings and any monies left. Two of my siblings (over 18) still reside in my mother’s home. I pay the property taxes as there is no mortgage and they pay the utilities. The Allstate claim is from an accident settlement my mother received for a car accident that turned her quadriplegic. We believe this Allstate claim is to pay back Medicare since the settlement monies were put in a trust for her medical expenses. To our understanding, once Medicare is paid, whatever monies left over will be split amongst all parties listed in the will. To our knowledge it is over $400,000 that Allstate must disburse. Us four siblings have no clue how to move forward with getting her estate settled and being legally put on the deed to her house. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: It sounds doable. A will is not required to be notarized to be legal and admitted to probate. As stated, if she signed at the end of the document and two witnesses have signed below her, it should be admitted. If the boyfriend does not want to be executor, he can renounce, and the testate heirs (in the will) can choose another person to serve if they all agree. Are you sure it is Medicare and not Medicaid? My thought is that it is Medicaid who has a lien, and they will be need notified of the estate and settled with. I think the more complicated issue may be dealing with the two siblings who live in the house. Nothing here is that unusual that an estate attorney cannot help you with so you need to make an appointment.
Q: My mother died at 66 years of age without a Will. We were not going to open an estate because there were no assets. However, I found out my mother was the beneficiary of my grandmother’s insurance policy valued at $22,800. This was turned over to PA Department of Treasury, unclaimed property. For us four children to claim this life insurance, we must open an estate. However, in reading small estate law in PA, Medicaid needs to be put on notice if she received it. None of us knew of my mother’s personal affairs as all of us were estranged from her so it is possible she received Medicaid. We are unsure if it is worth trying to collect money from my grandmother’s life insurance that my mother was the beneficiary. Without the policy, my mother died without assets. Is there any advice you can give on what we should do in this situation? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: Whether you proceed under the Small Estate Petition statute, or file for a grant of Letters of Administration, the Department of Human Services of PA must be notified. They will respond as to whether the decedent received Medicaid and if so the amounts they seek to recover under Estate Recovery. Under the PA Code, section 258.3 (Estate Recovery), life insurance proceeds payable to a decedent’s estate are subject to the Department’s claim. Life insurance proceeds payable to a beneficiary are not subject to the Department’s claim. The problem here is that this policy was not owned by your mother. She was a beneficiary of the policy who did not claim her proceeds for whatever reason. The proceeds turned in to cash after grandmother’s death. Had it been your mother’s policy, and there was a named and living beneficiary, I think you would be in the clear. The other concern is that since the proceeds have devolved to unclaimed property and lose their identity as insurance proceeds, they are viewed as cash. I would not throw in the towel at this point. I do not know the definitive answer on this without doing some research. You may want to consult with an estate attorney to see if it is worth pursuing. If an estate is opened and Estate Recovery files a claim for the entire amount, the estate can pay preferred estate expenses before paying Estate Recovery. These would be reimbursing family members for funeral expenses advanced, filing fees, attorney fees and an executor fee. It may be worth it. The attorney and the executor will earn a humble fee but perhaps someone who had no hope of being reimbursed for the funeral, which can be expensive, can now be paid.
Q: I only received $535 of my $2635 security deposit. I was charged for fantasy damage with no receipts to back up the work. I was charged for work not specified in the lease (such as cleaning) and just outright crazy charges ($75 for lightbulbs!). Can I take them to small claims court? (Oakmont, PA)
A: Yes, you can file at the District Justice level for return of your security deposit. Make your you have notified your landlord in writing that you demand the full return of your security deposit and provide him with your new address. I would send the letter both certified mail, return receipt, and regular mail. When you file your complaint, ask for filing fees and lawyer fees to be awarded if you hire a lawyer.
Q: My daughter is beneficiary of a life insurance policy. The owner just went to a nursing home on hospice. The Executor wants to cash in the policy for the cash value for Medicaid. The owner of the policy is of sound mind. What are our rights? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: The owner of the policy can do as he or she wishes. It is not the decision of the Executor. The Executor is appointed in the will and only has legal authority after the owner dies. If this person is Agent on a valid Power of Attorney signed by the owner, he or she may have authority to do this if the language of the POA allows it. However, if the owner is competent to make this decision, the Agent must abide by the owner’s wishes and cannot act to the contrary. Perhaps the Executor thinks the owner needs to liquidate this policy in order to spend down for Medicaid? Under section 258.3 of the PA Code, life insurance policy proceeds payable to a living beneficiary are not subject to the claim of the PA Department of Human Services, who manages the Medicaid program in PA. My thought is that if this “Executor” person is trying to do Medicaid planning without the assistance of a lawyer, he or she is taking a risk. Advise this person to seek legal help from an attorney versed in Medicaid regulation.
Q: I took my car in for a transmission problem and they had the car roughly two months all work was covered under factory warranty. I got the car back and three weeks later my fiancé and my daughter were driving down the road and it caught fire and totaled the car (luckily no one was injured they jumped out of the moving car). There was transmission fluid where the car caught fire on the road. It’s in the police report also. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: I would make sure you notify your auto insurer asap. I would gather all evidence, police reports, your repair bills, and keep notes on all conversations with the dealer or their reps. You may want to have the vehicle sealed or kept in a locked garage by a neutral party to avoid an allegation of tampering with evidence or spoliation. Your insurer may do that for you so their expert can examine the car. They may have a subrogation claim against the dealer for what they pay out to you. Whatever you do, do not give the car back to the dealer prior to a forensic mechanical exam by your insurer or a neutral mechanic. My experience is that car dealers never want to admit fault or liability and never want to pay. Litigation is usually necessary. I would notify them but at the same time do not make any statements to them or their reps and find yourself a lawyer.
Q: We moved out of our apartment 2 weeks ago and I contacted my landlord to ask about getting the deposit back. She informs me we have a flea infestation and will be withholding at least some of our very expensive deposit. We were shocked because at first, this may sound plausible because we do have a cat and a dog. However, all our pets have been on flea meds forever. I have inspected them and our vets have inspected them and they do not have fleas. They never have. Nor have I ever seen a single flea or gotten a bite. As far as I am concerned this is a total lie. Do I have a case for small claims court or is this a losing battle? I am a poor graduate student and I feel like I am just getting taken advantage of. We have been model tenets and were anal about cleaning the apartment when we left. Thank you. (Plum Borough, PA)
A: Generally, a landlord has thirty (30) days to return a security deposit to a tenant after vacancy. Proof is always an issue in these cases. My suggestion is to send the landlord a written demand via regular mail and certified mail, return receipt, (green card), in which you request your security deposit to be returned and provide your new forwarding arrest. You can state in the letter the date upon which you vacated the premise. The burden would then be on the landlord to either pay you or provide written reasons why she is not. If you feel her reasons are not genuine, you can file a complaint for return of the security deposit plus costs at the local District Justice. If you win the landlord is subject to paying you damages above and beyond your deposit and costs. I would have your veterinarian documents prepared for court. If the landlord is represented by counsel, you may want to have one as well.
Q: I work in healthcare ambulance transport company and developed MRSA.I was at work one day I must of had a patient that had this MRSA I transported him or her and developed MRSA I had filled out an injury report to my supervisor, they told me I would be deny workman’s compensation what can I do ?
A: Don’t accept the answer from your employer as true. They don’t want to pay money and have no concern about your health. You may or may not have a claim, but I suggest you to contact a worker’s compensation lawyer immediately. Preserve any evidence you can from your job before letting your intentions known to your employer, i.e., copies of trip sheets, logs, etc. (do not go as far as taking company property). Also, while the events are still fresh in your mind write down everything that happened, including dates and times of conversations about this with your employer.