Legal Question in Wills and Trusts in Pennsylvania

Mom passed away 3 yrs ago. All left to my brother and me. Per legal advice we declined representation and invited creditors of the estate to open an estate. She had a bank account totaling $4k. Her only creditors were the elder care home where she was staying (owed $400) and the Dept of Public Welfare. She had been receiving medicaid assistance from them for several yrs amounting to several hundred thousand dollars. Our attorney stated to not pay any bills orwe might be responsible for debts. Both creditors were notified by our attorney inviting them to open the estate to distribute her assets. They haven't.

What eventually happens with the money in her account? How long to wait? Can we close her account? Live in PA. Thx. Frank

Asked on 11/22/14, 7:06 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Not sure what kind of money or assets this is but if its just money in a bank account then it will eventually escheat to the state.

Information about escheat can be found at the office of the PA Treasurer - assuming your mother also lived in PA; here is the website:

It sounds like the money should be escheating about now. There are time limits for a creditor to sue an estate - probate would have cut this off but since you did not open an estate the statute of limitations will run after 4 years.

Medicaid would be mandated by law to seek recovery. They can come after children. See 23 Pa.C.S.A. � 4603, below.

I don't understand the lawyer's thinking - there is ad family exemption and funeral expenses and probate expenses which would have eaten up the $4,000. And no creditor is going to administer an estate for $4,000. Not when they will have to hire an attorney and not be paid. Why would they do this?

And there is no time limitation for the state Medicaid authorities to sue you. See 42 Pa.C.S.A. � 5531 also below.

Once the money escheats to the state, then you can make a claim with the PA state treasurer for the money.


23 PA CSA � 4603. Relatives' liability; procedure


(a) Liability.--

(1) Except as set forth in paragraph (2), all of the following individuals have the responsibility to care for and maintain or financially assist an indigent person, regardless of whether the indigent person is a public charge:

(i) The spouse of the indigent person.

(ii) A child of the indigent person.

(iii) A parent of the indigent person.

(2) Paragraph (1) does not apply in any of the following cases:

(i) If an individual does not have sufficient financial ability to support the indigent person.

(ii) A child shall not be liable for the support of a parent who abandoned the child and persisted in the abandonment for a period of ten years during the child's minority.

(b) Amount.--

(1) Except as set forth in paragraph (2), the amount of liability shall be set by the court in the judicial district in which the indigent person resides.

(2) For medical assistance for the aged other than public nursing home care, as provided in section 401 of the act of June 13, 1967 (P.L. 31, No. 21),1 known as the Public Welfare Code, the following apply:

(i) Except as set forth in subparagraph (ii), the amount of liability shall, during any 12-month period, be the lesser of:

(A) six times the excess of the liable individual's average monthly income over the amount required for the reasonable support of the liable individual and other persons dependent upon the liable individual; or

(B) the cost of the medical assistance for the aged.

(ii) The department may, by reasonable regulations, adjust the liability under subparagraph (i), including complete elimination of the liability, at a cost to the Commonwealth not exceeding those funds certified by the Secretary of the Budget as available for this purpose.

(c) Procedure.--A court has jurisdiction in a case under this section upon petition of:

(1) an indigent person; or

(2) any other person or public body or public agency having any interest in the care, maintenance or assistance of such indigent person.

(d) Contempt.--

(1) If an individual liable for support under this section fails to comply with an order under this section, the court shall schedule a contempt hearing. At the hearing, if the court determines that the individual liable for support has intentionally failed to comply with the order, the court may hold the individual in contempt of court and may sentence the individual to up to six months' imprisonment.

(2) This subsection applies regardless of whether the indigent person is confined in a public institution.


42 Pa.C.S.A. � 5531 No limitation.

The following actions and proceedings may be commenced at any time notwithstanding any other provision of this subchapter except section 5521 (relating to limitations on foreign claims):

(1) An action against an attorney at law by or on behalf of a client to enforce any implied or resulting trust as to real property.

(2) An action by the Commonwealth, a county or an institution district against the real or personal property of persons who were public charges, including mental patients, to recover the cost of their maintenance and support.

(3) An action by the Commonwealth, a county or an institution district against the real or personal property of persons who were legally liable to pay for the maintenance and support of persons who were public charges, including mental patients, to recover the cost of their maintenance and support.

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Answered on 11/22/14, 11:45 pm

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