Q: I worked for this elderly man for a long time. He died and left me a nice car and paid the taxes for me. Now I was arrested for theft and elder abuse and the car was impounded. It has been six months since the arrest and no charges have been filed. I received all bond money back, but the car is still impounded. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: You need to prove how the car is yours. If it was left to you in a Will, or the deceased man left at least a note stating that you are to receive his car, that would be some proof. All you have is your word. When property is confiscated by police, but the accused is never charged, the accused can petition the court to have the police return his or her property. If you were the owner, the police would need to comply with the order and return the property to you, its rightful owner. I imagine the car will become property of the deceased man’s estate. In that case contact the Executor or attorney for the estate and tell them what happened.
Q: My late father had dementia as all his extensive medical records show. His MD told me on the phone that my father had not been not competent enough to sign any financial documents for the previous 4 years before his death. My father could not write well or speak clearly, and he was mainly in bed. My father’s emails show that an attorney had been contacting him urging him to sign this TOD, yet my father seemed annoyed at these requests. The attorney went to my father’s home and wrote out the entire TOD agreement for my father and had my father scribble ONLY his name to sign the agreement with his financial institution (a stock brokerage/bank) so the agreement was between my father and his brokerage. There was no independent notary observing this interaction as the attorney was also the notary. I am the executor of his estate and his only child/only legal heir and do not believe this is fair treatment of someone who had dementia and should not have been signing financial documents. Is a contract law attorney or “will dispute” attorney most efficient at handling this case which is in the federal court as an interpleader case with the other beneficiaries suing too? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: The matter sounds complicated. If litigation in Federal Court has begun, you need to have an attorney or may forfeit your interest. If you have a medical opinion that states your father was incompetent when he signed the transfer, you have the beginning of a good case. I think you need an experienced estate attorney who also handles litigation in Federal Court. This is an unusual combination. The other more realistic option is to hire an estate lawyer and let him bring in a Federal Court litigation attorney as co-counsel. Good luck with your claim.
ELDER LAW, COMPETENCY, ELDER ABUSE, TRANSFER, LITIGATION
Q: We suspect our feeble but mentally sound grandparent is being emotionally and financially blackmailed by a private home caregiver who has recently come onto the scene. The grandparent has become somewhat secretive and it has been very difficult to meet this “caregiver”. They have begun a legal contract together regarding care of our grandparent. Upon death the caregiver will receive an overly generous financial gain. There are several requests that the caregiver has made that are illogical and very concerning to have in the contract to gain legal power over our grandparent. Our grandparent has started to withdraw from family since this caregiver has come along. The grandparent is acting out of character & trusts the caregiver. Our grandparent has already been influenced by the caregiver in a way that has put their health/life at risk. The caregiver does not like to meet with family to discuss their arrangement. There are many red flags at this stage with this relationship and we are sick with worry. Can we record conversations without consent to help prove undue influence as it is so difficult to find other proof at this time How else can we collect proof regarding undue influence of an elderly person? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: Not unless you want to take the risk of the caregiver filing criminal charges against you. PA is a two-party consent state. I suggest calling Adult Protective Services and have them do a home visit to assess the situation. Your grandparent can do as they wish if they are competent. However, if the caregiver is becoming an heir and receiving more than just compensation for services, something is wrong and there is a legal course of remedy based on the doctrine of undue influence. You could also make the local police aware of the situation. Some police have training in elder and may have suggestions as to what help they can provide.
Q: My 92-year-old roommate’s son has become gravely ill. A week or two after the onset of his illness the daughter had him signing all kinds of forms. She froze his bank accounts and I believe she has moved all of money to a bank in her city. (Oil City, PA)
A: I am thinking that you are asking if your 92-year-old roommate’s daughter can move or transfer the son’s money. She can do so if he was competent when he signed “…all kinds of forms…” and one of those forms was a legal general durable power of attorney which authorizes her to do such acts. If you feel this is not the case and he may be the victim of elder abuse, call the local Department of Aging and ask them to visit and talk to him.
Q: My husband lives in assisted living facility and my sister in law has not paid any of his bills for the home nor had she paid pharmacy bills, etc. What can I do? She will not answer any phone calls from me nor the assisted living facility. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: Call the Department of Aging and report Elder Abuse. You may want to see if the police can help. Neither agency may want to be involved as your sister in law is presumably in charge and it may take a court order for them to investigate her use of his funds. Although I would talk to these agencies, it may be necessary to involve a lawyer to file a petition for accounting which will force her to account for her use of his funds. If it turns out she stole money, criminal charges of theft and civil liability may be in her future.
Q: He refuses to leave. He says he’s a permanent resident in this home. He has not paid my dad rent. He is verbally abusive and has got in to it with the neighbors across the street. I feel very hopeless. My dad has had 3 strokes. I told my boyfriend that I can’t take it no more he runs and runs his mouth for hours and just won’t drop it. He calls my dad foul names and makes gestures like he is going to hit my dad. My brother is working in Alaska and says he take care of him when he comes to town in July. Before my brother kills him I just want him out of the house. (West Deer Twp., PA)
A: You can file for an eviction. Ask your local District Justice Office for advice on how to do it. You will need to post a Notice to Vacate in the premises, then file for an eviction. You may also have rights under the Protection from Abuse Statute. This would involve an act of violence or a threat of violence coupled with a prior physical act. You should start by talking to the local police to see how they can help. They may guide you through the PFA process or even file criminal charges if they think that is appropriate. If you want to pursue a Protection from Abuse Act petition yourself, you can go to the Family Division and file one or hire an attorney to file. I would start with the police.
Q: She transferred his money into her account. No one knows in what bank. How can he get his money, vehicles, business’s, house’s back from her? (Bridgeville, PA)
A: More facts are needed. If she abused the Power of Attorney by stealing money from the Principal, this would be a violation of the POA and would be a crime. However, and again, more information is needed. You would need an attorney to review the Power of Attorney document and advise accordingly.
Q: My mother in law won’t live in my home due to her and I not getting along. She had her own place once and then she lost it. She has no job to support herself. She stayed with us for a while and then she blew up on us. She was told to leave by my husband. Now she is parking her car in my back yard and she is staying in there. She will come into the house and use the bathroom and then leave. I do not talk to her much due to issues we have had in the past. There is also a homeless shelter that she qualifies for that will help her find work gives her a place to sleep and three meals a day. She doesn’t want to go there. I’m lost at what I can do personally without causing a major blow up between all of us. Plus, I only have a two-bed room home with two boys and me and dad. Please give us advice. (Scott Twp., PA)
A: Based on what you are saying, it seems like no one is abusing her and her predicament is self-inflicted. If she is mentally competent, she can choose to live in a car or under a bridge. If you feel that she is mentally incompetent or has serious mental health issues, you may want to call adult protective services or mental health services. They may come out and talk to her and assess her ability to care for herself.
Q: I believe my 88-year-old mother received a settlement from a lawsuit and my younger sibling who lives with her and is disabled is spending it. He is acquiring lots of assets. (Bridgeville, PA)
A: If he is operating under a Power of Attorney to act for her, you can file a petition for an accounting of her money he has spent as an agent under the Power of Attorney. You could also file to become her guardian. Calling Adult Protective Services may be a good first step. They can take your information and do a home visit. If their assessment is consistent with yours, they may advise the court action I mention above which will require an attorney. (Dormont, PA)
Q: A family member moved in with my grandmother sold her house. My grandmother’s name was forged on the documents. We need to get it back.
A: I do believe your recourse is by hiring an attorney file a petition to rescind fraudulent transfer or a quiet title action. If you are correct this transfer was done through fraud. If grandmother is competent and can testify that the signature on the deed is not hers and she did not sign, the case is easier. If she is incompetent to testify, it will be a little more involved. You may need her doctor to testify of her mental competence at the time the deed was supposedly signed and perhaps even a handwriting expert. I would see an attorney as soon as possible so something can be filed before the house is transferred again.