Tag Archives: Estate Planning

Can my uncle transfer his house to me without me paying inheritance taxes?

Q: My uncle is about to have surgery for cancer, and he doesn’t want his children to have his assets as they are estranged, and I have taken care of him for the last several years. How can we avoid paying inheritance tax if we transfer his house to me? (McMurray, PA)

A: Have him consult with an estate planning lawyer as soon as possible. Transferring real estate is easy to do, however, the person making the transfer must be fully advised of the consequences. If he deeds his house to someone and survives one year after the transfer, there will be no inheritance tax. However, he really needs to be apprised of whether this transfer is right for him. He may need his house to sell to pay for nursing assistance or institutional care in the future, among other future scenarios. The attorney will need to know or determine. What is his immediate medical situation? How likely will your uncle need Medicaid in the future? If he transfers this house and within the next five years applies for Medicaid, he may be penalized by Medicaid which could force the sale of the house. Does he have long term disability insurance? Does he have other assets to liquidate in order to sustain medical treatment?

What should I do? Niece is now Power of Attorney for my parents?

Q: My mother has Parkinson’s Disease and father has Alzheimer’s disease. My niece just had paperwork sign giving her power of attorney. I’m one of three sons. Is their anything I can do to claim some of her estate? (South Hills, PA)

A: Their Last Will and Testaments determine to whom their property passes upon death. A Power of Attorney does not empower an Agent (your niece) to make a new will for the Principal (your mother and father). A Power of Attorney does not permit an Agent to make gifts to themselves or others, change beneficiaries, or take a fee for services unless the wording of the document specifically allows them to do this. If your parents POA does not have such language, their money can only be used to pay for their own needs. After the survivor of them passes, what is left of their estate, after taxes, debts and taxes are paid, will pass to the heirs named in their Will, or if there is no will, to the heirs under PA intestate law. If you have evidence your niece is taking advantage of your parents, consult with an attorney about becoming their court-appointed guardian.

How do I add my sons name to my deed?

Q: I am getting older and want to add my son to the deed. How do I do it? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: It is easy to do. You just hire an attorney to prepare a new deed with your son’s name on it. You can put him on the new deed with you or you can leave him on the deed alone. All you would pay is an attorney fee to prepare the deed and the filing fee. However, a word of caution before you do this. Please consult with an attorney with whom you can share all the facts before doing this. This may or may not be advisable for you and an attorney can only make the determination if he has information on your other financial assets, your health, your health insurance, your potential of needing Medicaid, your income and the stability of your son.

If my husband (76) dies before me, how do I protect my assets?

Q: We have not made out a will. I have heard of probate, but do not know what this is. We jointly own our own home. What kind of will do we need? How can I best protect my assets should he pass away before I do? (Mt. Lebanon, PA)

A: To protect your assets if he should die, act now. Both of you should make an appointment with an estate planning attorney. To properly advise you much more information needs to be known about your assets, your health, your long-term health insurance, post-retirement income, etc. To answer your immediate question, if your husband died without a will, under PA intestate law, the first 30K of his estate would go to you and balance would be shared by you and any child or children you have or any child or children he may have. This would necessitate the filing of a PA inheritance tax return. If one dies with a will or without, it is still necessary to file a PA inheritance tax return.

What are the inheritance laws if parents give house to child under 18?

Q: My mom is trying to buy a house soon. She wants to hand down the house to me and my brother in the event something happens to her. Since I’m 26 and he’s under 18, how does inheritance tax and exemptions work? If he were to be still under 18 in that event, would he legally be able to accept it? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: Mom handing over a home to a 26-year-old and a minor may not be advisable. Additionally, I do not believe a minor can hold title to real estate. Your mother should consult with an elder law attorney who can assess her entire financial and personal situation and recommend the best options for her. Perhaps putting the house in a revocable trust is beneficial, but no one can tell without more information. The inheritance tax rate for children is 4.5% and it is practically unavoidable unless mom transfers the house out of her name altogether. Whether the potential consequences of doing that is advisable given the low rate of inheritance tax would be her decision. Additionally, not knowing the entire picture here, your mother should be advised of Medicaid implications with such transfer if she will potentially need Medicaid coverage in the next five years.

How can I have my 93-year-old mother declared incompetent?

Q: My sister and I have had joint POA since 2013, but not immediate. We have never exercised any POA. I have been taking care of her, although she is in an “independent living” place. I do her finances, her shopping…she should not be alone any more, as her health and mental condition are both deteriorating. She cannot live with me. My sister and her husband are willing to have her move in with them in another state, until a nursing home or hospice is the only option. She does not want to go, but at this point it cannot be her choice anymore. Ten years of my life are gone. (West Mifflin, PA)

A: This is a difficult situation. If your mother is deemed to be incompetent to manage her own affairs, you can file to be appointed her guardian. Until then, she can make her own decisions. You really need to sit down with a lawyer who handles guardian work and share all the facts.

Is verbal agreement with my grandmother legal?

Q: My grandmother has been saying for years she wanted me to have her house. She even gave me the deed. Years later my grandmother has dementia and my aunt is her guardian on a Power of Attorney. I am still in possession of the deed physically but nothing has been transferred to my name. I would like to proceed in doing the transfer but don’t know where to begin (before my money hungry family comes after it. (East McKeesport, PA)

A: I would review the documents and all information with an attorney. The way you present this, it looks to me as if there was no deed signed by grandmother to you. The fact that you are holding the old deed with her name as owner (grantee) does not help you at all. If she is incompetent to sign legal documents at present, she cannot sign a deed to you. Ask your aunt if she will sign a deed to you through the POA.

Can someone change anything on a will that was signed?

Q: My mom’s not going to be here much longer she’s being released to come home under hospice care. I have the will. The house goes to me and my sister but my sister is power of attorney over my mom my mom doesn’t trust her anymore. I my mom able to change anything on the will? (Lawrenceville, PA)

A: To change the content of a will, normally, a new will must be drafted. One cannot simply make changes to a will by writing on it, or crossing things out. Codicil’s (additions or addendums to wills) were used at one time, before the advent of word processing when wills were handwritten or typewritten. Rewriting the entire will to change one thing was unduly time-consuming and burden. However, the legal requirements for a will and a codicil are the same. The codicil must be executed with the same formality as if it was an original will. Thus, in modern times, most people just draft an entire new will. As long as your mother is competent, I would suggest having her make an appointment with a lawyer who can consult with her and draft a legal document that suits her testamentary wishes.

Can I sell parents house with a POA if my sister is on the deed?

Q: Seeking POA & Health directive for elderly parents to sell home for medical care. However, the equity in the house is shared by my sister. It is a Trust deed shared by Parents and sibling -all 3 live together. Both parents are elderly and one is caregiver of the other who is seriously disabled. Both need medical attention so I want to intervene to force medical care. I want POA to sell house to counter expenses- medical and future assisted living cost. However, co-owner sibling of house does not want to sell house and wants house in retirement. Legally, once I get POA then I have control of parents finance and will sell home for the equity to pay for parent’s assisted living expenses and medical care. No money remains for-co-owner sibling, but she can utilize her portion of equity to pay for elderly parent’s medical expenses too.

A:  Having the sister on the deed with the parents may be a problem for you as an agent on a power of attorney trying to sell this house. You need to have an estate planning or elder law lawyer look at the deed. If your sibling holds title as joint tenant or as a tenant in common, you just cannot remove her from the deed. What is happening here is why people should seek competent legal advice before putting a child on the deed to their home. You may also have some potential Medicaid issues if you believe either parent may need to apply for nursing care assistance in the future. You may be able to shelter the house and other assets and have the parents remain eligible for Medicaid, if you follow the advice of a good elder law lawyer. The fact that one spouse may remain in the home when the other is hospitalized and there is a child living in the home, may benefit your parents with Medicaid eligibility. This is a complicated situation and you need to consult with a lawyer.


How do I get a power of attorney and last will and testament?

Q: This is for my dad. He wants to make sure that everything is in place because he knows I will be killing him soon.

A: You both will need a lawyer. Him for estate planning documents and you for homicide charges. Some people try to pull estate planning documents from the internet and do it themselves, but this is not advised. The documents from the internet are sometimes not specifically compliant with the laws of the state in which you live, nor address the specific needs of your situation. Call several lawyers to determine who is in your price range and who you are comfortable with. The attorney can also refer you to a good criminal defense attorney. Perhaps an insanity defense will be appropriate.