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.
Q: It’s been a year since mom and dad passed. My sister moved in with them uninvited, several years ago, and has controlled and abused the house and their finances since they became ill. She hasn’t had any intention of moving so we can go thru their things, to set up sale of the property. My brother is executor, and is very soft spoken, and still paying the utilities from the parent’s savings. Paying for car repairs and new tires for her to drive parent’s cars! It is not right . She has always taken advantage of my parents, even when she has her own money. Never paying or calling pay utilities, car gas, etc. She is driving the wheels off their cars. And, now my brother is still enabling her to continue this behavior. She also won’t move out of their house. It’s keeping us from getting the house and contents ready for auction. Can she keep us from going in the house, to prep for sale? And should my brother still be paying all her utilities and upkeep on mom and dad’s cars for her to drive? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: Assuming the home is part of the residuary estate, and not specifically gifted to someone by the will, an executor has a strict duty to take control of estate real estate and prepare it for sale. This includes in a prompt and efficient manner, the cleaning of and preparing the property for sale, maintaining the property, listing it for sale and depositing the net proceeds in the estate account. This duty can become a little murky when family is involved such as in your case, with a sister living in the home. The duty still exists but can be extended or modified if all heirs agree. If not, the duties of the executor can legally be invoked.
Q: have been estranged from my mother (valid reasons) since 2009. My father passed in 2000 and my mother passed a few weeks ago. I am one of 4 siblings and my younger sister (who dislikes me) has POA. I did pay my last respects to her and recently found out the will was revised 12/23/18 while my mother was in the hospital and under medication. I was removed and replaced with my nephew, her grandson. I am being asked to approve this and am waiting for paperwork to review. My mother has treated me badly for years for no apparent reason. What is my recourse? It’s not about the money, it’s the principal and I had a great relationship with my father until he passed, therefore am not going to approve this revision. (Plum Borough, PA)
A: I assume they want you to sign off on the estate by a Family Agreement or other type of consent document, which will close the estate? The only thing I can advise is to take the papers to a lawyer. If you are saying that you want to challenge the will, you will have the burden to prove that your mother was incompetent at the time she signed the new Will, or that she signed it under the undue influence of your sister. It will be hard for you to investigate this and get medical records because if you are not the estate executor. Your attorney should be able to obtain these records and assess the situation.
Q: I worked for this elderly man for a long time. He died and left me a nice car and paid the taxes for me. Now I was arrested for theft and elder abuse and the car was impounded. It has been six months since the arrest and no charges have been filed. I received all bond money back, but the car is still impounded. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: You need to prove how the car is yours. If it was left to you in a Will, or the deceased man left at least a note stating that you are to receive his car, that would be some proof. All you have is your word. When property is confiscated by police, but the accused is never charged, the accused can petition the court to have the police return his or her property. If you were the owner, the police would need to comply with the order and return the property to you, its rightful owner. I imagine the car will become property of the deceased man’s estate. In that case contact the Executor or attorney for the estate and tell them what happened.
Q: I Don’t know if I am in mom’s will. My sister had her deemed incompetent and put her in an assisted living. We had agreed that to prevent this I would quit my job to care for her. She is the executor and has power of attorney. She made me leave after I moved in. I now have no job, no money, no car. I had lived there 6 months prior to this. I would like a copy of the will. Is this possible? (Oakmont, PA)
A: As far as obtaining a copy of the will, first, ask your sister. Look in the house. Ask your mother. If you get nowhere, see if you can find the attorney who drafted the will. He may have the original, a signed copy, or even a blank copy. As far as whether your sister is serving your mother’s best interests as her Agent on the Power of Attorney, or whether you would best be suited as her guardian, this can only be determined by knowing more of the facts. I suggest you consult with an attorney.
Q: I have lived with my girlfriend for 35 years we live in a home that she owns, and she died last week. Her children will not talk to me and they want me out of the house. They have arranged for her services and no one will give me the information. I received a 30-day notice. When she was told she has cancer I took care of her and her family never even called but the minute she died they were right here at the house and going through her stuff which they say I have no claim. I want her family to get her things, but I am 64 and disabled myself and can’t move. I have no money my money was helping my girlfriend to buy her medication. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: I am sorry for your difficulties. These situations happen frequently. Had you been married, you would be entitled to much more. I suggest talking to an attorney to review the entire situation. Relevant questions would be, did she have a will? In her will, did she provide for you? Are you sure you are not on the deed to her home? Will her family need to open an estate? Do you have a record of expenses (medicine) you paid for her prior to her death so that you can make a claim against her estate for reimbursement? Did she have any other assets, such as non-probate for which you may listed as a beneficiary? Additionally, if you are a tenant, at law, and subject to eviction, you can extend the eviction process.
Q: We have not made out a will. I have heard of probate, but do not know what this is. We jointly own our own home. What kind of will do we need? How can I best protect my assets should he pass away before I do? (Mt. Lebanon, PA)
A: To protect your assets if he should die, act now. Both of you should make an appointment with an estate planning attorney. To properly advise you much more information needs to be known about your assets, your health, your long-term health insurance, post-retirement income, etc. To answer your immediate question, if your husband died without a will, under PA intestate law, the first 30K of his estate would go to you and balance would be shared by you and any child or children you have or any child or children he may have. This would necessitate the filing of a PA inheritance tax return. If one dies with a will or without, it is still necessary to file a PA inheritance tax return.
Q: My Aunt’s property was left to a nephew and his wife and family. Other family members have been talking to the aunt who has dementia and now she has changed the will. Is this legal? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: Your aunt can only change her will by executing another one, a new will, which is in compliance with the law. Plus, she can only execute a new will if she is competent. Dementia does not necessarily mean she is incompetent. There are varying degrees of dementia. If she executed a new will and you are suspicious of the circumstances, you should review all the facts with an attorney.
Q: My husband was left his grandmother house in a will. But his father is the executor or person in charge of everything. One minute he wants to give us the house. Then, the next minute he wants to rent it out. It will be one-year next month. We are paying the bills to keep the lights on, water bill, and just started two months ago paying the taxes and house insurance. We are not sure if we should move in because we are scared he might put us out. (West Mifflin, PA)
A: You are not saying if grandmother died yet. If she did not die, she and only she can draft another will changing the disposition of her property. If your husband’s father does not like the fact that you will inherit the house, he is stuck unless he commits fraud by destroying the will, or has grandmother execute another will which can only be done if she is competent. He could also sell the house through a legal Power of Attorney, assuming she has one naming him as agent in which he is authorized to sell her home. Different story if grandmother has died. If there is an estate opened for grandmother, your father-in-law must follow the directives of the will and the estate attorney should be advising him to do so. Since it sounds like the house was specifically devised (given) to you, the only way that gift could be thwarted is if there are not enough estate assets to pay debt which would require the estate to sell the house. If that is not an issue, you may want to consult with an attorney. If grandmother has not died and her will is in your father-in-law’s custody, you need to be careful. You should get a copy and consult with an attorney. There may be a legal procedure whereby a petition can be filed in court to produce the will and hold it in escrow. You want to make sure the will is preserved.
Q: My husband, deceased Aug 2017, had some property in his name only, this property was purchased before we were married, and one piece was purchased after marriage, is this property taxed as inheritance tax for me (spouse). Is there anything taxable to me (spouse) as inheritance? I live in Allegheny County, in Pennsylvania. (Verona, PA)
A: If the property is in his name only and not in his name and yours, as husband and wife, it will pass to the heirs named in his will. If he has no will it will pass in accordance with the PA intestate succession statute. As applicable to spouses, the first 30K will pass to the spouse and the balance will be shared by the spouse (50%) and the children of both (50%). Spouses are subject to a PA inheritance tax rate of 0% and children, 4.5%. This means that if the house is worth 100K, 65K passes to the spouse but is taxed at 0% and the spouse will therefore pay no inheritance tax. 35K passes to the children and is taxed at a lineal rate of 4,5%. Permissible deductions may apply to further reduce tax liability. I suggest you meet with an attorney to prepare the inheritance tax return.