Q: My mom may be a vulnerable adult. In May of 2013 she had mild stroke. I found out that around that time my sister and brother bought her farm in Washington County by deed from her for 1000 dollars per month. The value of the land was once appraised at $237,000.00 dollars and is now paying $7,500.00 per month in gas rights, which I didn’t know until now. Does this sound right?
A: There is not enough information here to give you any reliable answer. I assume you are alleging that your mother was not competent enough at the time she deeded the farm to your siblings at such a low price. If so, if you can prove that your mother was incompetent when she sold, you may have a remedy in that you can go to court on a petition to rescind or nullify the deed. You would need a lawyer for this procedure. In order to prove your mother was incompetent at the time she signed the deed, you would need medical proof to back your claim up. This could be accomplished by an opinion of her doctor. I would pay a lawyer a retainer to look at this situation.
Q: What options do I have to ensure my terminally ill grandmother is receiving the best possible care during the end stage of her life. My grandmother is under hospice and living at my Uncles house in South East Florida. I am in PA. My mother was living there up until this week assisting the Hospice care team with the care of my grandmother. Not certain of the details but according to my mother, my uncle was violent with her and called the police to have my mother removed from the home. My Uncle claims to have POA over my grandmother although I have no idea if this is true or not. My mother claims he does not. I do not believe my grandmother has been deemed incapacitated, although again I have no way of finding out. I do know that she is of sound mind, but she is very weak and highly immobile as we have spoken. I am concerned I will not be able to see my Grandmother before she passes and I am really concerned about her quality of life.
A: This is more of a family dynamic problem than a legal problem. I would highly suggest trying to talk to your uncle and express your concerns. You may want to call the Hospice team and see if they will help convey your concern, but don’t count on them wanting to get involved in a family dispute. If you have to go legal, you can call the department of aging or social services agency in that county and see if they do home visits for the elderly. You can also seek a lawyer down there to advise you on what services are available and perhaps on what legal actions he can take such as a letter to your uncle expressing your concerns and requesting a copy of the POA. He can also advise you on the law of guardianships in Florida.
Q: What is the probability of winning a contest to a codocil signed 2 days prior to death of a terminally ill cancer patient who is heavily medicated? I was unaware that she was terminally ill and only found out from my Aunt Kathy (my mom’s sister) on Friday Sept. 27th. At that time my mother was being sent home from the hospital to die. I learned that she had liver cancer and a tumor in her lungs. She was given days to live. In May of 2013, my mom called me to let me know that she was working on her will and she needed some information from me. I thought nothing of this call as my husband’s parents and my stepmom and dad had also been making these arrangements. It seemed perfectly natural. She told me that Morgan (my daughter) and I were her primary beneficiaries and she told me that I would be the executor to her estate. I have a copy of my mother’s original will dated May 15th, 2013, that outlines pretty much exactly what I expected. You will also find a codicil dated September 27th, 2013 leaving her house, all contents of the house and car to Juanita Johnson. It also removes me as executor of her estate
A: This is a case that you really need to review all of the facts with an attorney. First the attorney can look at the Codicil to see if it is legally binding. Codicils are still permitted but must be executed with the same formality as a will-at least signed at the end by the testator. With the invention of word processors, hardly anyone, especially attorneys, draft Codicils anymore, which leads me to question who drafted it, and it’s legality. The attorney can also help you and advise you on how to gather information as to your mother’s state of mind at the time she executed this document. This can come from her doctor, hospital staff or other witnesses.
Q: In my Will I have included both my children and my step children and I called them all “my children”. Is it permissible to include both natural children and step children as children in my will without further specifying? My intent is to treat them all equally.
A: As long as you make this clear in your will, they will inherit equally. You could state something specific in paragraph like, “It is my intent for the purposes of this my Last Will and Testament, that my step-children inherit from my estate as if they were my natural children.”
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: 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.
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: My two sisters and I were named co-executors of my father’s will. Both my sisters have asked if I would relinquish my rights as an executor since they were named joint powers of attorney for my mother who has Alzheimer’s. If I relinquish my rights how will this affect future decisions for my mother and the handling of the estate in my father’s will?
A: I am not sure what the connection is with your mother’s POA and you being tri-executor of your father’s will. By renouncing your right to be executor of your father’s will, you do not lose any right of inheritance, you just give up your right to administer the estate and charge a fee for your services, which could be 5% of the gross estate. Being executor requires a great deal of work sometimes and can be time consuming and stressful. If the fee is an issue, ask your sisters to split the 5% three ways. You would also be giving up the right to make decisions of how the estate is administered. However, unless there are unusual issues with the estate, most are pretty straightforward, especially if a lawyer is involved.
Q: How much can an independent senior (84 years old) gift money without getting penalized if admitted to a nursing home shortly after? How much money can be gifted to children each without penalization? How much money may be gifted to grandchildren?
A: The Federal Gift Tax Exclusion allows you to give $14,000 in cash or other assets each year to each of as many individuals as you want without dipping into the basic exclusion. However, if grandmother may need to apply for Medicaid funding in order to afford her nursing care in the next five years, these gifts may not be advisable. Medicaid eligibility rules have a five year look back on all such gifts or transfers made without consideration. Therefore, any gift made in the previous five (5) years of the Medicaid application and eligibility, can result in her being ineligible, or her being excluded from funding to the extent of the dollar amount of monetary gifts made without consideration. If you believe that Medicaid may be in her future, it would be wise to have grandmother consult with a lawyer versed in Medicaid law, now. There are ways of excluding some of her estate from a Medicaid claim. There are exclusions and exceptions, trusts can be created and there are allowable purchases that can be made in the Medicaid spend down process.
Q: My parents are in their early 70s and in fair health and want to put their house in my name now to protect it. Is this a good idea for both of us.
A: This is something you should sit down with a local estate/elder lawyer and discuss. There are pros and cons. Pros-it reduces inheritance tax. 1) If they transfer title to you, there is no need to have the house part of the estate when the surviving parent dies. 2) You may avoid a Medicaid lien if the surviving parent never needs to apply for Medicaid within 5 years of the transfer. Cons-inheritance tax is not much for children (4.5%) so depending on the size of the estate it may not be that big of a savings. If the surviving parent needs to apply for Medicaid within 5 years of the transfer of the house for no consideration, this can give rise to Medicaid eligibility problems. Also, the parent loses control of what is often their most valuable asset which they may need to liquidate for money in order to afford a better nursing home. If the home is transferred totally out of the parent’s names, in Allegheny County, they will lose senior citizen real estate tax discounts. Just putting you on the deed with them will not result in a loss of senior citizen’s discounts. In addition, if title is transferred to you, and you subsequently sell this home, you will lose the benefit of the stepped up value you would have had if the transfer came from the estate to the buyer and you will have a full capital gains tax minus allowable deductions. There is more to this than you think, so I advise your parent to seek a legal opinion.