Q: My mother is in a nursing home. Before that I was her caregiver. I am still her power of attorney. I still live in my childhood home and have started a family of my own. My brother just got out of prison and wants the house. He only lived in the house for one year and never paid even one bill. I used my retirement from a previous job to pay off the house and I’ve paid every bill for almost 10 years. My mother has 4 children in total and everyone else has started a family and lives elsewhere. Does my brother have any rights? Can he force my family out of the house? Can he even try to sell without permission from me and the rest of my siblings? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: What does your mother’s will say? I am assuming your father is not alive. If your mother is competent, she can sign a will which leaves the house to you. If your mother has a will which leaves everything to the children equally, you may not get to keep the house and be forced to buy your siblings out if you want to keep it. The same result could happen if she has no will, under PA intestate succession law. If the sale of the house would be the result, you have a good argument to recoup your investment in it from the proceeds of the sale. I would consult with a lawyer as soon as possible and before your mother’s condition digresses.
Q: She was diagnosed with dementia and was put in a nursing home. She will never leave this facility. She has some sort of lifetime estate in the deed. (Braddock Hills, PA)
A: It depends on the wording of the life estate. Many life estates are worded, “until death or unable to return home”. I would have the agreement reviewed by an attorney first. Obviously, if the life estate has been fulfilled, and it is clear she cannot return to the home, you can sell the home. Remember, there are inheritance tax consequences of her life estate, in that the life estate itself is subject to inheritance tax.
Q: I found out my mother passed away from an ex-son in law that send us a text regarding her funeral services. I had been visiting my mother in California, four times a year because they would not let me bring her to PA to take care of her. She had dementia and it was hard seeing her neglected in their care. I am the only daughter I was pushed away by my brothers. (Ligonier, PA)
A: If your mother had a will and there was a need to file it, the person appointed as her executor in the will would likely have filed it in the Probate Court of the county in which she died. You can call that county’s probate court and see if they can tell you or direct you on how to do a record search. If you find the will and can get a copy of it and still have questions, you would need to consult with a lawyer to review the will. If you need legal representation to challenge the will or find more information, it would be best to hire a lawyer in the same county where she died.
Q: I have the original will with signatures, however, it is not notarized. The will has 2 executors who have not started any legal proceedings to settle my mother’s estate due to them not wanting the responsibility. The estate includes a house and an Allstate insurance claim. The will states that my mother’s four children and her boyfriend (executor #1) are to be willed her house, belongings and any monies left. Two of my siblings (over 18) still reside in my mother’s home. I pay the property taxes as there is no mortgage and they pay the utilities. The Allstate claim is from an accident settlement my mother received for a car accident that turned her quadriplegic. We believe this Allstate claim is to pay back Medicare since the settlement monies were put in a trust for her medical expenses. To our understanding, once Medicare is paid, whatever monies left over will be split amongst all parties listed in the will. To our knowledge it is over $400,000 that Allstate must disburse. Us four siblings have no clue how to move forward with getting her estate settled and being legally put on the deed to her house. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: It sounds doable. A will is not required to be notarized to be legal and admitted to probate. As stated, if she signed at the end of the document and two witnesses have signed below her, it should be admitted. If the boyfriend does not want to be executor, he can renounce, and the testate heirs (in the will) can choose another person to serve if they all agree. Are you sure it is Medicare and not Medicaid? My thought is that it is Medicaid who has a lien, and they will be need notified of the estate and settled with. I think the more complicated issue may be dealing with the two siblings who live in the house. Nothing here is that unusual that an estate attorney cannot help you with so you need to make an appointment.
Q: By way of my parents will I have 1/4 ownership of this home that I reside in. My mother has passed away and my father is in assisted care because of dementia my siblings are trying to sell this house worried about future Medical need for my dad who is 91 years old. I want to purchase this home but they’re not giving me enough time to get my credit in order. How can I prevent this transaction from happening or what can I do at this point? This has been my family home for 60 years I do not want to sell. I want to keep it and keep it in the family for my child and my grandchildren. (Pleasant Hills, PA)
A: I assume you mean your parent’s will and not their “living will”? Your 1/4 ownership does not kick in until your father dies. I will assume your father took full title when your mother passed. If the siblings are acting under a valid POA, and these medical needs are legitimate, they can sell the house. In that case, you need to get moving on finding a lender. If there is no POA in place and your father is incompetent, they would need to file for one of them to be his guardian in order to have legal authority to sell this home. This would give you more time. In any event, get moving and find a lender.
Q: My wife and I have been resident caregivers for the last six years of my aging Mother of 90 years of age. She assigned me as her Durable POA approximately seven years back. She is now mentally incapable of making decisions and is approaching hospice care. I would like to designate who and where her final assets (Home and less than $150T cash) would go upon her death. There are siblings involved. She has stated to us in the past how she wanted her remaining assets to be divided. Is her POA within my scope of authority? (Mt. Lebanon, PA)
A: I suggest a consultation with a lawyer. Generally, a Power of Attorney does not allow an Agent to create a trust or a will for the Principal. However, if the Power of Attorney you reference contains the appropriate powers, you may be able to set up trust or similar accounts which will achieve the result you are looking for. I would take the POA to an estate and trust lawyer for review.
Q: My husband had a pretty nasty divorce and his ex-wife has made comments to their adult children that “she has plans to sue me in the case that he dies”. Does she have this right and can she sue if we have a good will in place? (Jeanette, PA)
A: Once divorced she no longer has rights to inherit from him under the intestacy (no will). In his new will he can leave his property to whomever he wishes with no obligation to her. As a precaution, he may want to check his insurance policies, annuities, 401Ks and other non-probate property to make sure he has removed her as a beneficiary, and replaced her with someone else. This is not a difficult process. It usually involves calling the financial company and having them mail you a change of beneficiary form. The forms are often on-line. I would make an appointment with a local attorney for a will and other estate planning documents.
Q: There are multiple issues. My mother lives in the District of Columbia and has serious mental health issues, but she chose me as her Personal Representative in her will many years ago. I believe she is in the early to middle stages of dementia and believes I am her enemy, so she may designate someone else besides me to be her Power of Attorney in general and for health care. If she does this, does this action trump me as her Personal Representative in her will? If so, will I need to apply for guardianship and conservatorship if this happens as she continues to mentality deteriorate? Right now, she has some capacity, but has demonstrated that she cannot take of herself. She is a hoarder. She is not able to wash her clothes. She has apathy concerning her hygiene and living in a clean and sanitary environment, and she will not allow anyone into her house to assist her. At some point, I know that I will need an attorney, but I am not sure when to do this and how to help her. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: An executor of a will handles the affairs and assets of a person after that person has died. The executor has no such power prior to the death. An agent on a power of attorney has power to act on behalf of a principal while the principal is alive but has no such power after the death. The agent on a power of attorney must act in the best interest of principal and in accordance with the powers specified in power of attorney document. My advice would be to meet with an elder law attorney and have your mother assessed for competency. You can also ask her physician to give you such opinion. If deemed competent, she can execute a power of attorney in which an agent is designated to act on her behalf. If not deemed to be competent, she cannot execute a power of attorney. If there is no power of attorney in place and she continues to deteriorate, you or another family member may have to petition the court to become her guardian. This will require the assistance of an attorney.
Q: My Mother wants to change her “Will” to reflect the current state of affairs within our family while she is still of sound mind. My sister, the only other family member and the current Trustee, continues to hide behind an Irrevocable Trust written for our Mother signed in 2012. There is language in the Trust which allows Mom to remove and replace Trustees. However, my sister insists she will fight ANY attempt to change her legal status by using money from the Trust to thwart our Mother’s actions and intentions. Is this possible?
A: If your mother signed an “irrevocable trust”, she may not be able to revoke it. It all depends on the language of the trust. It sounds unusual that it is an “irrevocable trust” yet she retains the power to remove and replace trustees. I assume the trust holds most of her wealth? If so, you need an experience estate or trust lawyer to read the Trust Instrument and see what if any powers your mother has retained to revoke or change. If there is property your mother will pass on upon her death that is not included in the trust, she can dispose of that property by a will, so long as she is of sound mind to do so.
Q: My mother had a stroke and is unable to care for herself. My father passed away 4 years ago. I’m their only child. How can I get power of attorney? Am I able to take over the house they lived in? Neither one had a will or living will. There is more I want to ask and know but I either talk on the phone or in person. (Turtle Creek, PA)
A: You need to find a local attorney who handles wills, POA’s and estates. Find someone who will give you a free or low-cost consultation. Your mother can only sign a POA or other documents, if she is competent. If she is not, you may need to have an attorney petition the court to be her guardian. If mother is competent, an attorney can prepare a POA, Will and Living Will at a reasonable cost.