Q: My 83 and 91-year-old aunts are trying to sell the land. Neither one has ever paid taxes on this property nor have they lived here since the 50’s. I inherited the mobile home on the property after caring for my 76-year-old dad who died in 07 I moved to care for him after my mother died in 04 when I became an heir. I am 66 years old, never delinquent on taxes for property or my inherited mortgage for this land. I paid taxes, my mother paid them before, my grandmother paid them since the ’50’s. I am a veteran and a retired CPS worker and suffer from PTSD and anxiety. Can my aunts evict me just because they are older heirs? On my retirement income I can’t afford to move, and my mobile home is bricked in. Thank you for any advice that you can give me. (Lucerne Mines, PA)
A: There is not enough information for me to answer this. I suggest you gather the deeds, wills and any other documents you can and see a lawyer. It will likely come down to who at this time owns the property. If your aunts are the only heirs, they own it and I don’t understand why you had been paying property tax on it. If you are an heir along with your aunts, you have options. In that case, the three of you will need to reach an agreement. If they want their money, you may be forced to buy them out. If they don’t want their money out of the land, perhaps they will agree to execute a new deed which has your share pass to their heirs after their death and give you a life estate to live on the property. If they are agreeable to letting you live there, and do not want money, you have some options.
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.
Q: I have lived with my grandmother for over 18 years now and raised both of my children here with her. When her children found out she left the house to me as a life estate they stopped talking to her. She pays all the bills in turn I take care of her and promised to never leave her and to never allow her to be put in a home. She wants to die in her own house. My family and I care for her every day. We do breakfast, lunch dinner, medicine, showers, changing her diapers, anything and everything that she needs. We are the only ones here to help. They want nothing to do with her and only contact her by phone occasionally. They send her cards in the mail and they live 2 miles away. Sometimes one of her other granddaughters will come here just to take her to the bank to get money. They want to wait until she passes because they know while she’s alive she will fight for me and what she wants for us. But she is 97 and shouldn’t have to go through this. It stresses her out thinking they are going to try to take away the home we have built. is there anything we can do to ease her mind and make sure that these people cannot hurt us anymore? (Penn Hills, PA)
A: It is difficult to tell who has the life estate, you or your grandmother. I strongly suggest that you and your grandmother meet with an elder lawyer or estate lawyer who can look at this deed and advise you as to what your options are. If she has the life estate, the normally will house transfer to someone upon her death, hopefully you. If you have the life estate you can live there until you die, then the house transfers to someone else.
Q: My husband had a pretty nasty divorce and his ex-wife has made comments to their adult children that “she has plans to sue me in the case that he dies”. Does she have this right and can she sue if we have a good will in place? (Jeanette, PA)
A: Once divorced she no longer has rights to inherit from him under the intestacy (no will). In his new will he can leave his property to whomever he wishes with no obligation to her. As a precaution, he may want to check his insurance policies, annuities, 401Ks and other non-probate property to make sure he has removed her as a beneficiary, and replaced her with someone else. This is not a difficult process. It usually involves calling the financial company and having them mail you a change of beneficiary form. The forms are often on-line. I would make an appointment with a local attorney for a will and other estate planning documents.
Q: My sister is the executor and per the will she is to receive everything yet my name is listed as a 50-50 beneficiary on her retirement and life insurance. Debt on estate is about 100k. There is 160k in IRA account which I signed over my half to my sister. There is10k in life insurance of which I was sent 5k. My sister is asking for $1500 of that for funeral expenses. We are a month and a half into this and now there apparently was another retirement account that I am listed as the sole beneficiary of $37k. Why am I receiving these funds and why aren’t they going to the estate and then my sister as heir? Below is the distribution part of the will. A) I give such items of my tangible personal property as are designated in a separate writing signed by me which refers to this will to the individual (s) named therein who survive me. B) I give the balance of my tangible personal property (or all such tangible property if no writing exists) to my daughter (my sister) if she survives me. If my daughter fails to survive me I give the balance of my tangible personal property to my son (me), if he survives me. (Glenshaw, PA)
A: Normally, if an attorney was handling this estate, your questions would be answered. Generally, some assets such as insurance policies, IRA’s, annuities, etc., have beneficiaries. Upon the death of the owner, the asset passes directly to the named beneficiary. The asset does not go into nor is it part of the estate. These types of assets are considered “non-probate”, as opposed to probate. An example of a “probate” asset would be something held in the decedent’s name at death, with no listed beneficiary. For example, a house with the decedent named on the deed. A car with the decedent named on the title. Beware, you may owe inheritance tax on some of these “non-probate” assets that you are inheriting. If you don’t have an attorney, and your sister is the brains behind this, I strongly suggest that you hire one.
Q:I have heard that if I die without a will, the government takes all of my money and property and my heirs receive nothing. Is this correct?
A: Absolutely not, but you would be surprised how many people think so. If you have a valid will at the time of your death, your property and money will pass to whom you name as heirs in the will. This is of course after all estate taxes and expenses are paid. If you die without a will, your property and money will pass according to PA laws of intestate succession, which means Pennsylvania decides what portion of your property passes between your surviving heirs. The other degree of control over your estate that you lose by not having a will is that without a will there is no named Executor and therefore, if not otherwise agreed upon by your heirs, the court decides between your surviving heirs who should be in charge of your estate. In some cases this can lead to a family feud in probate court.