My mother died with no will, a car and $1000

Q: She has no spouse. She has about $1000 in a checking account and an older car, Blue Book Value $2000, which is currently sitting in our driveway. We are not using it. The registration is expired, and it requires repairs. She has no life insurance or other assets of any kind. Her current medical bills/nursing home payments due will wipe out the checking account. We have limited resources after caring for her for years and cannot afford a lawyer, court fees, etc. We would like to pay off her debts as far as possible utilizing her assets. How can we do this legally without incurring expenses for ourselves? Is there any way to just walk away from this and let the creditors and state figure it out? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: Assuming she has $1000 and an old car, you might want to do nothing. You can get the $1000 from the bank under section 3101 of the Probate, Estate and Fiduciary Code if you are a child and go to the bank with a copy of the paid funeral bill and a death certificate. The car can be sold through AAA or other motor vehicle transfer agent. It will cost you thousands of dollars to open an estate and then you will be harassed by creditors. If your mom received Medicaid, hang on to the $1000 for about a year to see if the PA Department of Human Services will file a Medicaid claim against her. They can claim the $1000 as an exception to Rule 3101. You can file an inheritance tax return and “0” it out as I am sure someone paid more than $1000 in funeral expenses which are deductions. Again, you could do nothing and leave the money sit. You will have no personal liability. Her estate, if someone opens one, is the only party who will owe her bills.