Legal Question in Wills and Trusts in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania - My aunt(#1) died (no will) (2/5/12) leaving my mother(her sister) who at the time was disabled by a brain anuerysm and later a stroke occuring the year before, property i.e. car and a run down house and a beneficiary amount from an IRA. My mother died a month later.

My mother was on medicaid and in a nursing home on a ventilator when she died (no will) and married to my father still living in their own house. We don't know if my aunt's(#1) house, car and IRA shift to my father. Medicaid sent a letter stating repayment, we sent info to them that they requested, but haven't heard anything in about a year.

Most immediate issue: Mother and aunt's(#1) last surviving sister, my aunt(#2) just died (7/11/13) (no will either) and we have to go through arrangements as well as settling her estate. She had relinquished rights in aunt's(#1) house, but she had taken aunt's(#1) car after her death and had use of it saying that her sister wanted her to have it (no problem to us), but we find out that nothing as far as title or insurance was changed - just renewed on deceased aunt's(#1) identity. Her boyfriend is in current possession and stalling in its return. We realize that any accident or damage could jeopardize my father so we know that we need to get it back. For now we're trying to become executor to get monies from this aunt's(#2) bank accounts for burial.

I hope that this is enough info to give you a picture, but we need help/advice in resolution of these three estates - getting the car back, medicaid, but the most immediate issue.

Asked on 7/24/13, 9:50 am

3 Answers from Attorneys

Glenn Brown Real World Law, P.C.

You need a consult with an attorney to assist you through this.

I have an office in Upper Darby. 610-734-0750.

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Answered on 7/24/13, 10:00 am

Solomon Weinstein Solomon Weinstein, Esquire

I agree with the other attorney. This is complicated by the multiple deaths. And the absence of wills. If you would like to consult office. You may call at 215 322-2100

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Answered on 7/24/13, 10:33 am

I agree with my colleagues - you are going to need experienced probate attorneys who practice in the county/state where your mother and aunts lived at the time of their deaths. If different counties that are too far apart you may even need more than one lawyer unless one lawyer is willing to handle probate of all 3 estates. However, I will give a brief synopsis of who gets what based on what you have stated.

Aunt 1 died without a will. Aunt 1's property would go to aunt 1's heirs. If aunt died with no living spouse and no children and no parents, then aunt's estate would go to aunt's siblings, one of whom would be your mother, and the other would be aunt 2. So aunt 1's property would pass to your mother and any other siblings or, if they also died, to their children


Since mother died after aunt 1, mother's estate would go as per state intestacy law. Because mother was married, her property (including her share of aunt 1's estate) would pass to your father and you children. The exact percentages may vary depending on how many children your mother had.

Since your mother was on Medicaid, medicaid is mandated by law to seek recovery from your mother's estate. Medicaid and any other claims get paid paid before heirs get anything (except for certain funeral expenses and the family allowance). However, it depends on what Medicaid is owed. Even worse, PA has a law which allows Medicaid to go after the spouse or children. So if there is not enough in mother's estate, the heirs may be personally liable. This is why you need an attorney. And it is not surprising that you have not heard anything yet from Medicaid. They are S-L-O-W from what I have heard.

You ask if assets shift to your father. As I have indicated, your mother's share of your aunt's probate assets will pass to your father and your mother's children. Not all assets are probate assets. IRAs are not probate assets. Who was the beneficiary of your aunt's IRA? If your mother, then the funds would go to her estate. If not, the IRA would go to the named designated beneficiary. Depending on what kind of IRA this was (Roth or traditional), then taxes might have to be paid. Yet another reason why you will need an attorney as you will want to minimize the taxes owed if any.

Thirdly, you indicate that your aunt had another sister, aunt 2. Aunt 2 gets to share in the goodies of aunt 1's estate then. I don't know how exactly aunt 2 could take herself off the house but not the car - its possible but I don't know exactly what was done. If aunt 2 filed a proper disclaimer, she would renounce all interest in aunt 1's estate. If she just signed a quitclaim deed on the house, then she would just give up rights to the house. The car is an asset of aunt 1's estate and just by taking and using the car does not necessarily make it aunt 2's car. However, if she really wanted it, the car could be counted towards aunt 2's share of aunt 1's estate.

But Aunt 2's boyfriend gets nothing so I don't understand about him hanging onto things. That is what wills are for. If Aunt 2 had no will, then tough luck for boyfriend. He gets nothing and if he does not start relinquishing property of aunt 2 to the administrator of aunt 2's estate the administrator can take legal action, which is yet still another reason to get a probate lawyer.

Good luck with this messy situation.

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Answered on 7/24/13, 10:37 pm

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