Q: My mom is taking care of our step-father at her home and we don’t know how much longer she can. He has Parkinson’s Disease. My mom is 82 and she has health problems also. She is on Xarelto. (Somerset, PA)
A: This is too complex of a question with too little information to answer. If either or both of your mother and step father are on the deed, and in the next five years should need to apply for Medicaid, yes there may be an issue. Medicaid has a 5 year look back on transfers for no consideration (gifts). Also, if either needs to liquidate their property to pay for nursing care, that is their right, as it is their property. If they are concerned, have them make an appointment with an attorney who is versed in estate planning and Medicaid regulations.
Q: I bought a house with a friend back in 2004. We have since parted ways and the house is paid off. She left over 2 1/2 years ago and moved to another state and left me with all the taxes and upkeep of the house. I want to get her name off the house but do not know how to do that. We have no contact with each other. She has changed her phone number and I have no idea where she is living other than in Florida. I have been putting a lot of money into keeping the house and paying off the back taxes so would really like to just have my house in just my name. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: No matter how you are on the deed-as joint tenants or tenants in common-you are stuck unless you can get her to sign a new deed transferring ownership out of her name. I would try to locate her even if you need to hire a private investigator and see how much she wants. Perhaps she needs money and you can buy her out at a reasonable price. If she is unwilling, you can hire an attorney to commence a real estate partition action, which is expensive. However, if you start one, she may not have the money or want to spend the money to defend, and be more inclined to settle.
Q: My sister signed a quitclaim deed transferring her property to me in December. I hadn’t recorded the deed due to not having money to pay the property taxes. Now she has dementia and is under state guardianship. Is the quitclaim deed still valid? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: If she was competent when she signed it, it is a valid deed. It just has not been recorded yet. You can file it now. However, there are other factors you need to be aware of. In the event your sister may need Medicaid funding in the future, this transfer could have her penalized and ineligible to receive such benefits. You should consult with an attorney versed in Medicaid regulations.
Q: My late father had dementia as all his extensive medical records show. His MD told me on the phone that my father had not been not competent enough to sign any financial documents for the previous 4 years before his death. My father could not write well or speak clearly, and he was mainly in bed. My father’s emails show that an attorney had been contacting him urging him to sign this TOD, yet my father seemed annoyed at these requests. The attorney went to my father’s home and wrote out the entire TOD agreement for my father and had my father scribble ONLY his name to sign the agreement with his financial institution (a stock brokerage/bank) so the agreement was between my father and his brokerage. There was no independent notary observing this interaction as the attorney was also the notary. I am the executor of his estate and his only child/only legal heir and do not believe this is fair treatment of someone who had dementia and should not have been signing financial documents. Is a contract law attorney or “will dispute” attorney most efficient at handling this case which is in the federal court as an interpleader case with the other beneficiaries suing too? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: The matter sounds complicated. If litigation in Federal Court has begun, you need to have an attorney or may forfeit your interest. If you have a medical opinion that states your father was incompetent when he signed the transfer, you have the beginning of a good case. I think you need an experienced estate attorney who also handles litigation in Federal Court. This is an unusual combination. The other more realistic option is to hire an estate lawyer and let him bring in a Federal Court litigation attorney as co-counsel. Good luck with your claim.
ELDER LAW, COMPETENCY, ELDER ABUSE, TRANSFER, LITIGATION
Q: If my parents sell their home to their children within the 5 years? How does the 5-year issue work in Pennsylvania? (Munhall, PA)
A: PA manages its Medicaid program through the PA Department of Human Services. Under Medicaid regulations, any transfer of an asset by a Medicaid applicant for no consideration (i.e., gift, $1.00, under market value, etc.) within 5 years preceding a Medicaid application, can cause the applicant to be ineligible for Medicaid benefits to the extent of the fair market value of the asset transferred. You say your parents sold the home. If it was a legitimate sale for fair market value, it would not rule your parent’s ineligible. If the proceeds of the sale went to your parents for their living expenses, which should be easily documented, there should be no problem. I suggest consulting with an attorney to review this sale before you do it.
Q: The car has been parked in front of his condo (which we will eventually sell) for months. We would like to drive the car and keep it at our house. Do I need to transfer title, or can I just put the car on my own car insurance? I am his financial power of attorney, and do not want to do anything unethical. (Hermine, PA)
A: There is a larger picture here that any lawyer would need to know before giving you a definitive answer on what seems like such a minor thing. We would need to know if your father is incompetent. If so, the transfer would need to be through the POA. Very generally, if your father has any foreseeable need to apply for Medicaid in the next five years, a transfer of this vehicle out of his name could subject him to a Medicaid penalty to the extent of the value of the transfer. If Medicaid is not an issue more information would be needed on who the potential heirs of his estate are. If these heirs would ultimately object to transferring the car into your name via the POA (if the POA authorizes such transfers or gifts), as a gift, then it may be an issue. Even using the car which will ultimately be estate property, could be objected to. If you are confident you have no potential Medicaid issues, and you are the only heir, there is less risk here, but I would still consult with a VA attorney.
Q: The property in question, was his before the marriage and they have never lived on it or made any improvements. I have been the sole resident for 28yrs. She has contributed nothing to it and has been there maybe once. (Cecil Twp., PA)
A: There is a PA Divorce Code issue here. Although the property would be considered non-marital, as he owned it prior to the marriage, his spouse may have an interest in it. Her interest would be in the increase of value of the house from the date of the marriage to the date of the sale/transfer/gift (if any increase at all). In my practice, I have the spouse sign off any interest she may have acquired under the PA Divorce Code.
Q: I am purchasing a piece of property from an individual, he is the youngest of three children. His mother has dementia and is in an assisted living home, he has power of attorney. He has a warranty deed that states that he received the property from his mother for a sum of money. My closing agent has a copy of this deed and is asking for a bill of sale or bank account to show the transfer of money, in case one of the other children try to take the property. Is this necessary or does the warranty deed take care of this? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: No, it is not required, however, I think your closing agent is exercising due diligence as I would in this situation. Two potential concerns. One, is that it was a transfer without consideration (no actual money paid). If that happened, and his mother needs to apply for Medicaid in the future, or is receiving Medicaid benefits right now, Medicaid would ask for the record of the transfer. If no consideration was paid, there could be a problem and the home could potentially be subject to a Medicaid lien The second concern is that the other children didn’t agree to or don’t even know about the transfer. I think it is best to be cautious.
Q: We built an in-law apartment onto our home with proceeds from the sale of their home. If they need to be moved into a nursing home before five (5) years have passed, will they or us need to come up with the full amount of money generated from the sale of their house, necessitating the sale of our home to recoup the $53,000 spent on their apartment, before Medicaid will pay the rest of the expenses? Or does Medicaid accept/require the remaining monies only? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: You need to consult with an attorney who is versed in Medicaid regulations. Generally, the idea is that any transfer of wealth, without fair consideration (like gifts) within five years of the Medicaid application, can render the Medicaid applicant ineligible for Medicaid funding to the extent of the value of the transfer. It is not the nursing home that triggers the 5-year look back but the Medicaid application. If you are saying that they liquidated their home, to pay for an addition to your home so they can live in it under your care, I am not sure the entire value of the addition is a gift as they are receiving consideration in the form of housing and care. An attorney can also advise you on a caretaker contract which may help you shelter some of the in-law’s estate.
Q: My grandmother has been saying for years she wanted me to have her house. She even gave me the deed. Years later my grandmother has dementia and my aunt is her guardian on a Power of Attorney. I am still in possession of the deed physically but nothing has been transferred to my name. I would like to proceed in doing the transfer but don’t know where to begin (before my money hungry family comes after it. (East McKeesport, PA)
A: I would review the documents and all information with an attorney. The way you present this, it looks to me as if there was no deed signed by grandmother to you. The fact that you are holding the old deed with her name as owner (grantee) does not help you at all. If she is incompetent to sign legal documents at present, she cannot sign a deed to you. Ask your aunt if she will sign a deed to you through the POA.