Legal Question in Wills and Trusts in Pennsylvania

My father passed away and I am the only remaining joint tenant with right of survivorship. Because I was young when I was added to the deed, I cannot remember the attorney or the location of the property (I know it is in the Catskills). My father left an envelope for me with my step mother and she will not give it to me, she keeps putting me off.

Question #1. Is there a way for her to go after my property.

Question 2: Is there a way to find a copy of the deed without her help? I have tried to find it but without an address I am running into a brick wall.

Question #3: Is there a way to make her give me the envelope, I have witnesses that heard her say she had it and that my father wanted her to give it to me.

I am concerned because the property taxes, etc, may need some attention.

Asked on 3/29/13, 1:39 pm

2 Answers from Attorneys

Miriam Jacobson Law Offices of Miriam N. Jacobson

You should consult an estates lawyer to represent you. An estate should have been opened, and if your stepmother has your father's will, she should probate it. If there was no will, or if no will has been found, you may petition to be appointed as the administrator of his estate. You may also petition to force her to probate a will if she has it. She may be required by the court to provide any documents that were given to her for you.

But you will need an estates lawyer to help you.


* If the answers to your question confirm that you have a valid issue or worthwhile claim, your next step should almost always be to establish a dialog with a lawyer who can provide specific advice to you. Contact a lawyer in your county or township.

* Another reason for contacting a lawyer is that it is often impossible to give a good answer in the Internet Q&A format without having more information. The unique circumstances of your situation and things that you may not have thought to mention in your question may completely change the answer. If you want to be sure that you have a complete answer to your question and an understanding of what that answer means, establish a connection with a lawyer who practices in the area of your concern.

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Answered on 3/29/13, 3:08 pm

First, if the land is in the Catskills, I assume that it is in NY, not PA. Regardless, you need to find out what county/state the land is located in and get a copy of the deed. Many county deed offices are online. Look up the deed using your father's name as grantor and grantee to see what comes up. If the deeds' office is not online, then call. Start checking with the county where you think it is located and if that does not work then try the surrounding counties. Eventually you will find it. All you need is the name of your father, not the property address.

Your question implies there are an issue with the property taxes. What kind of an issue? If you are getting a tax bill, then the information would be on the bill. Where are the bills going if not to you as the property owner and why do you think there is a problem?

When did your father die? Where did he live at the time of his death? Was an estate ever probated for him? Have you checked with the probate court in the county/state where an estate would be pending? The probate court is called the surrogate's court in New York and the Orphans' Court in PA. Once you know where your father lived and if he has an estate, you can check the court file to see if it mentions the Catskill property. This may also give you a clue. You can also try contacting the tax collector's office and providing your father's name to see if a property comes up.

Failing all of this, there are asset search services. I don't know what they charge, but a search can be conducted and the property located.

I would agree with Attorney Jacobson that you need to see an attorney. If there is a probate estate and your father left probate assets to you, then you can compel your stepmother to produce a will if it exists. However, your post concerns a mystery envelope and I don't know if this is a will or not. A probate lawyer could write a letter to your step-mother on your behalf.

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Answered on 3/29/13, 5:47 pm

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