Can I sue here in PA?

Q: My dad died from seafood poison in New Orleans, while on holiday. Can I sue here in Pittsburgh? I expect to be appointed administrator of dad’s estate – he died without a will. So, I wonder if I can sue here in state court, or federal court and if I win when suing on behalf of dad, what is his wife entitled to? (New Eagle, PA)

A: Sorry for your loss. As far as jurisdiction in which to sue, I think you must likely sue in Louisiana in state court. Federal Court may have jurisdiction if this restaurant has business contacts in PA, for example, if it is a chain establishment with eateries in this state. In that case you could sue in PA Federal Court. I would consult with an experienced personal injury attorney to assess whether you have a case and where to sue. If there is no will his wife is entitled to inherit under PA intestate (no will) law. She therefore would be entitled under his will to the first 30K and then would share one-half of the balance of his estate with his child or children. She may recover additional money under a survivor’s action, but you would need to confirm this with the PI attorney.

What do I do?

Q: My uncle was here on visitor’s visa from India couple of years ago. He had a hospital ER visit which lead to 20k in medical bills. He had some sort of traveler’s insurance at the time of his treatment. He went back assuming the insurance would take care of the bills. However, insurance denied everything stating it was due to a pre-existing condition. I recently have received a court summons on his name mailed to my address. Since the defendant is not staying in US anymore and they cannot afford paying that huge amount, what can be done? Would I have any impact on all this? (Gibsonia, PA)

A: If you were not named in the suit, but it was just mailed to your address, you should have nothing to worry about. I have seen creditors send court papers such as complaints to several last known addresses of clients. This way they can claim they served the defendant and try to obtain a default judgment. It was probably the address he listed when in the hospital here. My suggestion is to mail the creditor a letter, both regular and certified return receipt mail. In the letter, tell them that your uncle does not live nor has ever resided at your address and to cease further contact at your address. Saving a copy of this document may help your uncle in the future if the creditor should obtain a default judgment. As far as your uncle is concerned, it is highly doubtful that they will serve him with a complaint in India. If he travels back to the U.S. they could personally serve him with the complaint, but that is very unlikely.

Can a lawyer from another county handle my divorce?

Q: My lawyer is from another county handling my estate, can he also handle my divorce that was filed in my county? (Plum Borough, PA)

A: I think you mean the lawyer from the other county is handling your estate planning. If he was handling your estate, you would be dead, and should not be on-line asking legal questions. If he is licensed in the state in which the county is located, yes. Whether this estate attorney does divorce work, you will need to ask him.

Can an officer from a different township pull me over?

Q: I got pulled over and got a citation for that township police department but the officer was from a different township. (Canonsburg, PA)

A: There is a PA statute that allows an officer to leave his jurisdiction and follow (pursue) a vehicle if he suspects a crime or motor vehicle offense is being committed. You might find it in Section 6342 of the PA Motor Vehicle Code in Title 75. So, if you are cruising through township A and blow a stop sign, a police officer can follow you into township B and stop you and cite you. If you are saying that the officer from township A handed you a ticket identifying himself as a township B officer, that is weird. Are you sure he doesn’t work for both townships which is not uncommon in smaller communities that have part-time officers?

Limited Power of Attorney question

Q: There are seven owners (including myself) of a property. I wish to get a Limited Power of Attorney (POA) from the other six that will give me the ability to list and sell the property. Do I have to customize the POA for the state where each owner lives or can I simply use the POA for the state where the property is located? Also, one owner lives in France, will that POA must be different? (Seven Fields, PA)

A: If you are using a Power of Attorney in the jurisdiction of Pennsylvania, it must comply with Pennsylvania law. A limited power of attorney for specific purposes, such as one for selling real estate or representing another person at a real estate closing, is not a General Durable Power of Attorney and therefore does not need to comply explicitly section 5602 of the Probate, Estates and Fiduciary Code. You would be better having an attorney draft a limited power of attorney. If you want to handle it on your own, the only basic advice I can give you is to make sure none of the parties to the document are minors or incompetent and that the scope of your powers (what you are doing for them) are clear.

How can my mom disown my toxic sister?

Q: My oldest sister has guardianship in her home in Florida over my mom without mom’s knowledge of what she got it for. Mom’s 89 and in good health, she’s begging to come home and NOT HAVE TO LIVE WITH MY SISTER. (Monroeville, PA)

A:  Law’s pertaining to guardianship are different for every state. Generally, if there is a court ordered guardian in place, it takes a court order to remove the guardian. To do this, you will need a lawyer to file a petition. Consult with a FLA elder lawyer.

How can I locate a trust?

Q: My niece’s mother died in 2008 and supposedly there is a trust for her once she reaches age 27. Her dad just died this past October, and her stepmother is of no help to her. Also, she no longer lives in Michigan where her parents are from. Is there anything I can do to track it down to help her? Thank you.

A: There is no central registration or central repository where these are filed. IF this trust instrument was filed, it would likely be filed in the jurisdiction where the trustor/settlor had residency. You can start by searching the probate court in the County Department of Court Records. Often, real estate is part of a trust. Therefore, you could also check the County Recorder’s office (where deeds are filed) to see if a deed was filed in the name of the trust. Also, sometimes trust notices are advertised if the trust instrument was filed and real estate transfers are listed in legal newspapers and papers of general circulation in the county with jurisdiction. You could call the legal journal and main newspaper for that county and see if they have an archival data base. If it cannot be located, you might try to call lawyers in the area to see if any of them drafted the trust. I get calls occasionally from people in search of a lawyer who may have drafted a loved one’s will. It might be hard to find but you may get lucky with just a few calls.


I live in Florida but am an Executor in PA


Q: I live in Florida and am executor for a will in probate in PA, Allegheny County. Do I need a lawyer licensed in both states to help me file tax papers. (Bradenton, FLA)

A: The state where the decedent had residency, is the state where the estate must be opened. If all of the property is in PA, a NJ lawyer may set up an estate in PA. For convenience, depending on the local PA law, you may be able to be sworn in as executor in the FLA probate court, to save some travel time. The FLA probate court then certifies the paperwork then sends your papers to the PA probate court. The PA probate court then admits them and certifies you as executor. If there is property in FLA, you may need to have a lawyer file for an ancillary estate in FLA, to handle the FLA property. I would consult with the PA lawyer first.


Mother is Florida resident, living in Pittsburgh. Do we need FLA or PA lawyer?

Q: My mother is 94 years old and is a Florida resident. She has been living with me here in Pittsburgh. Do we need to contact a lawyer in Florida or Pittsburgh?

A: It depends where she intends to reside. Normally, her estate will need to be opened in the state where she has established residency. Each state has law which defines residency. If she has property located in PA and FLA when she dies in PA, and she has residency in PA, you may have to hire an attorney in PA and he or she may have to open and estate in PA and ancillary estate in FLA. Many times, the PA lawyer will seek and hire a FLA lawyer to do the ancillary estate work in FLA. FLA has no state inheritance tax so there may be obvious advantages for her keeping property in FLA. I would consult with a lawyer in the state that you feel she will most likely have residence in when she dies.