Q: My husband and I haven’t been together in a year. We are not legally separated nor has the divorce started. We have 2 vehicles both purchased since we have been married but both unfortunately in his name. We’re living in 2 different states, myself in PA and him in Ohio. There haven’t been any issues as far as the vehicles go unit now. Last week his transmission went out and now he is demanding my car. If this was “my” car bought while together married both of us paying for the vehicle is he able to take it and or report the vehicle stolen? My car is the only belonging I am left with. Thanks in advance! (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: You will have a good argument when the court divides your property in the divorce action, in that regardless of who is on the title, it is marital property. However, as to here and now, he is on the title and if he wants to, he can try to take it. The police may or may not let him do it. They are not going to involve themselves in a driveway divorce settlement. They may be persuaded that he has the title. Or, knowing that you are married, they may tell him to hit the road and talk to his divorce lawyer. You may want to tell your local police what is going on in just in case. What you can do is keep the car in a garage, hidden or blocked in, if that is possible. The police will not take a stolen vehicle report where the alleged perpetrator is the wife. In the meantime, you may be able to have an attorney file an emergency motion to give you exclusive possession of the car, pending the divorce proceedings. You may also tell him that such a foolish act will hasten your filing of a spousal support complaint. If his behavior turns to harassment, you can file for protection under the Protection from Abuse (PFA) statute.
Q: My aunt died without a will and left a property behind in Pennsylvania. She has only one living daughter in Florida. She hired a probate attorney who set up a trust to deal with the process because she is too busy to deal with it herself. There are many things in the house that are mine that my aunt had let me keep there for storage. I try to enter the home to retrieve them, but the trustee tells me I am not allowed on the premise. Is there a way I can be allowed inside? I am afraid that my valuable belongings will be inventoried along with my aunt’s things. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: A Trustee or Executor, has legal authority over real and personal property of a deceased person. They have a duty to preserve it and keep it in tact until it can be inventoried and accounted for and properly disbursed pursuant to the trust agreement or will. If you cannot work this out with the Trustee or Executor, you will have to hire a lawyer to file a petition in the Orphan’s Court in the county which has jurisdiction. This is likely to be where your aunt resided and died. If this property is indisputably yours, you should have no problem. If there is a question and you have no clear proof such as receipts or records, it may be difficult.
Q: Does cash under the mattress have to go to probate court when somebody dies? The death person gave this money to relatives to hold to prevent creditors of the estate from taking it when he dies. It is impossible for the creditor of the estate to know that this cash exists. A probate lawyer told the two adult children after examining all bank statements of the death person that it needs to be reported. The creditors think that this money was spend. The death person was living rent free in a house that legally belonged to relatives. (Uniontown, PA)
A: Yes, it must be reported. It is considered property of the “death person” in the form of cash and part of their estate. It must be reported on the estate Inventory and estate Inheritance Tax Return.
Q: Four years after mom’s passing I got a copy of the will. The two heirlooms left for me in the will, my sister, the executor, claims were stolen by a third sister. The executor will not communicate with me, a named beneficiary. I assume this alleged theft must have been discovered after mom’s passing, otherwise would not the attorney have advised the executor to amend the will to reflect the unknown whereabouts of these things in order to protect the executor from financial liability? And would the lawyer not advise the executor of the will to file a police report of the alleged theft? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: Your questions are valid but there is much missing information here. Like, why did you just notice this after four years? Was an estate opened when your mother died? Is that estate still open? Things will generally go less smoothly if this estate was opened and closed and you had not raised this question before. I would at least try to get an answer from the estate attorney. He or she should be willing to speak with you and answer your questions. If you have no luck, you have a couple options. If the estate is still open, you could wait until the estate attorney moves to close the estate. He or she can close by family agreement which means you would be required to sign off on it. Don’t sign until you get an explanation. If you don’t sign, the estate can only be closed formally, by First and Final Account. The attorney would then attempt to close the estate formally by presenting a First and Final Account to Orphan’s Court. It is called an “Audit”. You will be notified of the date, time and location of the Audit and be supplied a copy of the First and Final Account with the Notice. You can choose to appear at the Audit and convey your objections and or questions to the judge. Your other option is to hire an attorney now to attempt to get an answer for you now, and if necessary file a petition in Orphans Court if the estate Inventory does not show the heirlooms. If the estate closed, you may have a tough time getting back in to court to open this issue.
Q: My girlfriend lived with her grandfather for a few years and when she moved out two months ago she left a few large items on the property with permission. Around one month ago however her mother died and an argument over the funeral plans caused the grandfather to bar her from the property and he is refusing to allow her to collect her things. He is asking for an absurd amount of money to collect the items, to the tune of $40 a day since she moved in or roughly $78,000 in back storage fees that were never agreed to. He also refuses to allow her to collect the items from her mother’s estate as she lived with him at the time of her passing. The items value at around $2,000 to $3,000 but some of them are extremely sentimental and there are also textbooks that she needs for college. I need to know my legal options to retrieve these items or to sue him for the value. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: He sounds like a real pill. Perhaps multiple trips up the Courthouse steps is what he needs. Seriously, regarding her property located in the old geezer’s house, have her file a civil suit with the local District Justice under a conversion or theft theory of law. Before she does, provide him a demand letter via certified mail to prove to the court that he was given notice of suit and did not respond. As far as her mother’s estate, she should review that with an estate attorney. More information would need to be known, such as was an estate opened? If not, why? If an estate was opened was this personal property you describe listed on the estate Inventory? If not, why? Etc. etc. Consult with a local estate lawyer.
Q: My ex left my residence on May 11, 2016. I filed a PFA against him. It went into effect then and it is a three-year order. I still have his clothes. I spoke to him after he vacated my apartment and told him I was going to get rid of his stuff. He said to me ” do what you have to do” and I haven’t heard from him since. It will be a year in July. Can I throw it out or donate his clothes?
A: If it is just clothes with no real value, one would think who cares? However, with an active PFA, he really cannot talk to you. If you want to be super cautious, I would pack it up and make it available for pick up for a certain time period. Have a 3rd party write him, call, email, whatever way of contact you have, to convey the pick-up dates and place. Save the letters and emails as evidence. If he wants to exhibit controlling behavior like suing you at a magistrate you will have evidence.