Category Archives: Blog and FAQ

If there is a beneficiary listed, does the money go to the estate?

Q: What are my rights as beneficiary on deceased brother beneficiary designation form? My brother died without a will, but I am listed as one of his beneficiary on his employment form, the lawyers are stating that this goes money goes into the estate and is to be shared by everyone, is this correct? There are stock certificates, life insurance etc. that he marked and the lawyers won’t hand over the original certificates so that we can transfer them to our names. I am also one of the co-administrators. Please answer asap. Thank You.

A: I really would need to examine the documents to be certain with my advice. However, generally, if you are listed as a beneficiary on employee benefits like 401 Ks or pension or insurance, that is your money and not estate money. Generally, if you are a beneficiary, the company will prefer to talk to you and will not want to deal with the estate attorney. Call the company and ask if you are the beneficiary. They won’t lie to you. As to the other problems, estate issues, I am not sure why you are having a problem with the attorney as the executor/administrator generally can hire and fire an attorney for the estate. Maybe this is perhaps because you are not getting along with the other attorney. I highly advise you to see an independent lawyer versed in estate matters.


Q: I violated my parole in Pa with a .02% breathalyzer, can I get out on bond? My original sentence was 6 months house arrest with a home breathalyzer box. I’ve had 2 DUIs in the past both 1st offenses. I have never violated before no new charges. I live in West Virginia my house arrest was sent down here. My parole officer had me sent back to PA, even though PA stated they did not want me and to try and file for a faster hearing to get in and out.

A: If you are on probation or parole you can be detained and forced to sit in jail if your probation officer has probable cause to suspect that you violated your probation. Normally, an alleged probation violator is given a Gagnon I hearing to determine if he should be held in jail further. If he or she is held in jail, the next hearing is a Gagnon II to determine if he or she actually violated the probation terms and conditions . There are two ways a person can be released prior to the Gagnon I or Gagnon II hearing.  The first is if the probation officer makes the request to the court, which is often not likely. Secondly, you can hire counsel to petition the judge to lift the detainer and he is successful in convincing the judge you should be released from jail. There is no bond on a probation violation. It is the probation detainer that holds you in jail. If the case is reviewed by an attorney, he or she can determine if it is worth filing a motion.


Q: Should I plead guilty or not guilty to public urination? I received a citation for public urination while very intoxicated in Pittsburgh, PA. I refused to sign the citation and would not give them my SSN. I started arguing with the cop but ultimately still got home with only a citation. What should I plea?

A: You should not plead guilty by checking the box on the reverse side of the subpoena and sending your money in. If you don’t have a criminal record, an attorney may help to get you out of this with no record. If not, a summary conviction will result in a criminal record and cannot be expunged until you have completed 5 years of arrest free behavior.


Q: Signed a compromise and release with insurance company, Doctor bills still not payed from them, going to collection in 10 days. This was all agreed upon at court and Insurance Company is to pay for my Surgery also, with recovery. What are my options at this point? Surgery is already scheduled in 3 weeks.

A:  If you did not have a lawyer draft this settlement agreement with the insurance company, you need to review it carefully to see if what you signed obligates the insurance company to pay your continuing treatment. If you are not sure, take it to a lawyer for review. If the lawyer agrees with your assessment, he or she can threaten litigation and if necessary, file a breach of contract, or possible a bad faith claim against the insurance company. If the contract is clear, the insurance company could be dragging their feet and hoping you go away.

How do I keep a young girl away from taking advantage of my 87 year old father?

Q: While in a rehabilitation hospital, my father was getting taken care of by a young 29 something girl. After he left there, she managed to get his address and phone number. She has been to the house and calls him every day. This has been going on for seven months now. My mother has passed away so we moved my father to an assisted living facility 4 hours away from this girl. He is telling my sister and I that he loves her and is in love. She has got him convinced that he needs to go back to his house. There is money and property missing from the house and he keeps telling us that she is his friend. We are just so afraid that she is taking advantage of him but we don’t know what to do. He cannot live in the house alone. Any advice or direction would be go greatly appreciated

A: If he is mentally clear, there is little you can do except this. If you are sure money is missing, you can see if a police officer will take a report and at least talk to this girl. Not all police departments will do this, but some will. This may shake her up a bit. Dad should have a Power of Attorney at this point in his life so you need to talk to him and see if you can get him to a local attorney in order to address this. If you or someone in the family can serve as his Agent on a POA, you can file the POA with all the financial institutions where he has money on deposit and inform them to notify the Agent if any large or suspicious withdrawals are attempted. If your father is not clear headed and you cannot get him to sign a POA, then your only option besides letting this girl know she is being watched and hoping she will get the message and go away is to file for a Guardianship of your father in court. This is somewhat expensive and requires the assistance of a lawyer. I would sit down with a lawyer and discuss all of the facts before you decide what to do.

If I sign my house over to my daughter, how do I get the sale proceeds?

Q: If I sign my house over to my daughter, can she sign something that says I would receive all proceeds from a sale? I am a senior who lives in an assisted living facility. I have a house that I am trying to sell and I am also concerned about costs. I thought about putting the house in my daughter’s name, making her the responsible party for these costs. Is there a way she can sign something that legally says I could receive all proceeds from the sale of the house?

A:  The simple answer is yes, and the best way to protect you is to have an attorney prepare a mortgage note and mortgage instrument to file with the court. However, this is not a simple question. If you are elderly, and there is any chance that you may need to apply for Medicaid in the future you may want to consult with an elder law attorney versed in Medicaid law. Medicaid has a five year look back on all transfers of property without consideration (i.e., gifts to relatives) and Medicaid could rule you ineligible because of such a transfer. Also, understand that many realty taxing bodies like school districts and counties offer discounts to senior citizens which may be rescinded if title is transferred. You really need to sit down with an attorney and discuss your options.


Q: There is a prial Conference for a Felony Three of Theft of Leased Property. If the defendant pleads guilty to a Felony Three Theft of Leased Property, and the plea is entered at the pre trial conference, what are the chances of the case being settled that day if the judge agrees with the plea. Will the defendant’s sentence be given that day? And what are the chances of probation with time served, which is three months.

A: Very few judges take pleas on pretrial conference days in Allegheny County. However, if your judge does, yes, you can plead and get sentenced that day or the day of trial. As far as the sentence, it depends upon several factors, among which are, the dollar amount of the theft, the facts of the case and the prior criminal record. You would have to ask the lawyer what your potential sentence will be. If this person has no criminal record, he may be eligible for the ARD program. This program for first time offenders offers no criminal record if the person completes the program.

Is a bill of sale legal for piece of land and how do I get the deed?

Q: The owner sold me part of his land and now he said he can’t split.

A: No one can answer that question on the limited information you have given. I would need to know much, much more. A real estate attorney should review the sales agreement, the deed, the map and so forth. It may be that the seller had good intentions but now he realized he needs to subdivide his lot to sell you a portion. The subdivision of property requires much work and usually involves getting zoning approval from the municipality. It concerns me that you think you were sold a piece of land but do not mention that your name is on the deed. It sounds like neither of you has an attorney and you need the advice.

What holds more ground a will or a deed?

Q: My mom passed and left her house to me in her will. My niece and nephew are listed on the deed along with me. Her will only names me as sole heir. Do they own any of the house?

A: If the deed is joint tenants with right of survivorship, the property upon death passes to the surviving tenants. So in this case, your mom’s share passes to your niece and nephew. If the deed is tenants in common, the deceased tenant’s share goes into their estate. In this case, one third of the house would pass through your mom’s will to you as a sole heir in the will. Don’t do anything until you have a local attorney review the will and deed for you.


Q. I am an education major in PA and I received a citation for drunk in public, should I fight it? Will this show on my record. I was walking down the street at my college campus and an undercover cop pulled up and asked if I was okay then I was given a breathalyzer test and eventually taken me to my dorm where a friend signed a release form. They hand cuffed me but never read me my rights. Next, I have to contact the magisterial district court. I was wondering if I should bring a lawyer to court?

A. You need an attorney to help you avoid a conviction, one way or the other. A conviction of this seemingly harmless summary offense will stay on your record for 5 years. At that point you can pay an attorney to expunge it. In addition, if you are a minor, there will be a driver’s license suspension. There may be first offenders options for students like you and an attorney will know how to access them.