Should I put utilities in my name?

Q: I lived with elderly mother all my life. All the utilities were in her name, but I paid the bills. She died 2 years ago. I still live in the house and still pay the bills. Shortly after her death I told the alarm company that she died, and they said there was no need to change anything because I had continued to pay the bill. But now I’m wondering if I should try to change the name on the utilities and how. (Sharpsburg, PA)

A: As you can see, the utility provider mainly cares about being paid, not who is paying. I know of no such law that mandates you change the name on these accounts. Perhaps someone else does. I would however change the name on the accounts. It will establish a credit history with the providers attributable to you as a payee. As far as real estate taxes go, you need to update who is living in the house. This is to avoid wrongly benefiting from any senior citizen’s discounts if you are not a senior citizen. I would also inform the property insurer as to her death and request the account to be switched into your name. For all you know there is a clause in the policy that negates coverage if your mother died or moved.

What if relatives are not paying their share of property taxes?

Q: Property was turned over to us children. Two siblings passed away. Their children have not paid a cent of taxes for almost 18 years and now are holding us up from selling. What can I do? (White Oak, PA)

A: You really need to sit down with a lawyer to examine the prior deeds and estate papers to assess with certainty, what the present situation is. If you are correct, in that you own the property with the children of deceased siblings, and they are not cooperating with a sale, I would say you have a problem. You may have to buy out their interest. You could argue that what they receive should be reduced by the portion of real estate taxes and insurance if any, that they have not paid over the years. If this cannot be worked out, a petition for partition action in Allegheny County is expensive to file and litigate-for both parties. This is a matter that should be settled based on value of the property.