Elder Law Lawyer Clearfield Pennsylvania | PA Estate Planning Future Real Estate Attorney

Frequently Asked Questions with Q&A's for Common Legal Dilemmas

The following information for each practice area expands on issues to be considered when contemplating seeking legal assistance.  A Q&A section follows each area of practice, providing situations (with identifying details removed) which have been submitted to Attorney Durant by email along with his responses.  These personal communications will give insight into the thought, respect and care that Attorney Durant brings to the legal concerns of his clients.  

Elder Law - Providing clear and concise direction for the family when you or another member is elderly can be challenging.  Let us help you and your loved ones communicate your desires in clear and legally sufficient ways.  Taking care of business can take that burden off of your shoulders and give you a rewarding sense of relief.  Whether you wish to make your medical care wishes known, or need to draft powers of attorney so as to allow a loved one to make decisions for you, or you want to finally get that will you have been putting off, the assistance of an experienced lawyer is a vital tool in ensuring the care you and your loved ones desire.  

Whatever your specific concerns, Attorney Durant works diligently to help you create clear and concise direction on your wishes or the wishes of your elderly loved ones.  Attorney Durant has developed strategies for addressing various Elder Law issues, including:

  • Asset Preservation
  • Medicare and Medicaid Planning
  • Nursing Home Planning
  • Familial caregiver arrangements and agreements
  • Advanced Directives
  • Living Wills
  • Powers of Attorney
  • Guardianships
  • Estate Planning
  • Wills
Q&A's - Elder Law - Click Here

 

What should we do for gravely ill grandfather?  My grandfather does not have much longer to live and we are told he needs to appoint a power of attorney.  He already has a will and an Executor to his will, but does he also need a power of attorney?  What is the difference?  Thank you for your information.

A power of attorney only has value during the lifetime of the grantor and cannot be used after death.  A will only has value after death and cannot be used during the lifetime of the signer.  A power of attorney can be used on occasions when the signer cannot or does not want to handle the matters on his own.  A power of attorney could be used to circumvent the provisions of the will and thus create a nightmare in the estate or could be used to correct errors in estate planning that the will does not address.  The person with the power of attorney authority can do anything the signer could do during their lifetime including spend all their money.  As you can see the Power of Attorney is helpful and dangerous all at the same time.

If your grandfather is mentally competent and physically able, I would be willing to prepare a Power of Attorney for him.  He would need to come to my office where I would meet with him.  During our meeting I would discuss his wishes with him and prepare an appropriate "Durable General Power of Attorney".  If he is physically unable to come to the office, arrangements can be made for a home or hospital visit to determine the appropriate course of action.  

 
 
Mom with Alzhiemers:  I live in New York State but have an 82 year old mother with alzhiemer's disease who lives in Pennsylvania.  She has spent all her assets, owns no vehicles or real estate.  I have her power of attorney.  She receives about $1,300 a month in Social Security payments.  She will be needing full time nursing home care in the future.  Can I be sued by Pennsylvania or the nursing home for the cost of her care?  We do not have any co-mingled assets and the only transfer of money is to reimburse me for costs of food and medicine which I sometimes pay for on her behalf.  I own my home outright and have retirement accounts as my own personal assets.  

Pursuant to Pennsylvania Statute 23 Pa.  C.S.A.  §4603 (known as Pennsylvania's Filial Support Law) it is possible for a care provider to sue the spouse, parent or the child of the patient.  Usually those cases involve some wrong doing or asset hiding by the defendant child but the statute does not seem to require any culpability to trigger suit.  Also transfers for less than full value within 5 years from the date on which your mother qualifies could cause her to be ineligible for Medicaid Long Term Skilled Nursing Care under Medical Assistance.  You did not say whether you were married but in PA the spouse of the patient's child is not liable for medical care of his or her mother-in-law or father-in-law.  

I understand that New York does not require the child to pay for their parents' medical care.  If I am correct, it may make sense to have your mother cared for in NY.  

Obviously more facts would make a clearer case for analysis.  Let me know if you need me to do something for you here in Clearfield County, PA.  
 
Uncle Taken from my home:  My exceptional needs seventy six year old uncle was removed from my home due to two falls, the first of which he recovered fully from under my care.  He is now in a group home where he has suffered several illnesses and health issues.  

Thank you for contacting me through the Christian Legal Society web site.  I do a significant amount of elder law and am quite aware of the guardianship issues.  If your 76 year old special or exceptional needs uncle was removed by court order as I suspect, you will have a very hard time getting him back.  You will have the burden of proving that your home is superior to the facilities in which he has now been placed and that it would over all be in his best interests to be removed from there and placed in a private home.  Issues such as 24 hour care and stairways and accessibility due to doorway widths and cabinet heights and wheel chair access to bathroom and furniture as well as hygiene or monitoring anklets and fire safety often make a normal house not suitable in the eyes of the courts.  What your uncle wants may indeed to be returned to your home.  Has the court found him to be incapacitated?  You do not say what it is that makes your uncle an exceptional needs person but this condition may be the overriding concern of the court or the Area Agency on Aging.  

If you believe your uncle has not been adequately taken care of you may want to first report it to the department of welfare for investigation.  That would not likely bring your uncle back to your care but it is likely to improve his treatment.  If that does not remedy the problems you see, and you wish to petition the court for guardianship of your uncle, I would be happy to meet with you to discuss the way forward.  

 

Estate Planning - Questions that will need to be addressed for any estate plan are:

  • What assets do you have?
  • What are they worth now?
  • In whose name are these assets currently titled?
  • Who are the people or organizations that should receive your assets following your death?
  • Is there anyone who requires special protection to assure the assets they receive from you are not pre-spent or soon wasted?
  • Who should be the Executor(s) in charge of distributing your assets?
  • Is the goal to help make it a little easier for your family, minimize state and federal death taxes, protect assets, protect beneficiaries from bad decisions made after your death, provide funding for a community or charitable organization, or create a community or charitable organization as a memorial, etc?
  • Do you have a Durable Power of Attorney?  Is it adequate?  Is your choice of agent up to date?
  • Have you completed an advanced directive (also called a living will)?

Attorney Durant often encounters people who have been sold expensive "Living Trusts" designed for estates that are much larger than the ones they have or are likely to have at the end of their lives.  Scare tactics regarding "Probate" and attempting to avoid it, have caused them to seek complex documents that are more expensive and unnecessarily complicate executing their wishes.  Over the years, a number of clients have retained Attorney Durant to help them terminate Trusts that were far too complex and ornate for their actual needs.  

Attorney Durant can help you evaluate your need for estate plans that are appropriate for your situation.  He is experienced in creating Trusts if they are needed but finds that a correctly drafted Last Will and Testament and good estate planning will often serve the client's purposes less expensively and more properly.  

Reasons to use or avoid joint ownership and the benefits and detriments of lifetime gifting should also be discussed.  

 
Q&A's - Estate Planning - Click Here

 

What's the best way to preserve the family home?  I have aging parents who live in Clearfield County.  We are trying to decide how to handle their only real asset, a home with a mortgage.  Both are in fairly good health and we are looking for advice on what is the best way to plan for them to be able to distribute it.

Thanks for contacting me.  Part of estate planning is determine what assets should be held, what should be sold or distributed and what form of ownership should be applied to the assets.  As you know, the family home really isn't an asset, it is an expense.  The only way to distribute it is to sell or give it away.  You need to be aware that in the event that your parents need medicaid for nursing home care, they can hang on to their home as it is an exempt non countable asset.  If they sell or distribute the family home they may run into the penalty from the 5 year "look back" period.  Call me and set up an appointment to discuss these matters and more.  Tel. 814-765-1711.

 
How do I provide for my unborn child?  Hello.  I am just about to finish up my last trimester of my pregnancy.  So basically, I am questioning my next steps in creating some kind of will for my daughter.  I am not currently married, but I am involved with the father of my child.  He is my fiance.  I really feel creating some kind of will would be best.  We don't own a house, we rent.  I also do not work, he only does.  But I would feel much better if I knew my daughter had a set place to go in case something happens to both of us.  Thank you for your time.  

I can prepare Wills for you and your fiance in which you each designate who you choose as the guardian(s) of your child.  Please call my secretary to schedule an appointment.  My telephone no.  is 765-1711.  Thank you for contacting me.
 
How do I get cheap but expert legal advice for documents I have already written?  We need the following documents completed:  Reciprocal Wills (for husband/wife); Living Wills (health care directive); Powers of Attorney (each other); Testamentary Trust (to create a named trust for our estate, with a local bank named as a trustee).  We have most of these documents not only thought out, but also written out a lot in detail.  I have pecuniary and specific bequests, beneficiaries, executors, contingent beneficiaries and trustees named--as well as the Foundation and charities identified.  Key:  We want this all done for around $1,000 max.  

Thank you for your email.  

I have found that it usually (but not always) is just as time consuming to review and critique documents drawn by others as it is to utilize my own documents to meet the needs of my clients.  The proper documents for any particular set of problems or issues are fact specific.  Different people, different times and different circumstances require unique responses, that is not to say, we need to reinvent the wheel each time.

We can use an hourly rate.  I would suggest that you call my office (765-1711) to arrange a consultation with me for one hour.  During that time, I can listen to your plans, needs, issues and goals.  I can then review your documents as well.  At the end of one hour I should be able to give you an opinion as to whether we should use your documents and what it may take to complete the work you desire.  You may decide to go another way altogether as we discuss various legal strategies and your factual situation.  

Unless I have some time to look at what you have and what you want to accomplish, I cannot give you any opinion as to the feasibility or the projected fee total.  I look forward to your further contact.  
 
Our Long-Term Care Insurance is too costly:  Currently we have Long Term Care Insurance for myself & my spouse.  The premiums are expensive.  Is there an alternative to protect assets?

There may be alternatives to Long Term Care Insurance for your and/or your wife.  The problem is that the premium for long term care insurance will never be lower than it is now.  Every year you wait to buy it makes it more expensive since you are that much closer to using it.  I would need to review your assets, your gifting within the past five years, your age, and your health as well as discuss what things are important to you as you proceed in your life.  
 
Estate Planning for my Mom:  My mother needs to have a will made.  She owns a house and another lot with a garage on it.  She has a car, and a savings account with some money in it.  She also has the contents of both properties.  She wants everything to go to her 3 children.  She also wants to put the property in her children's names with the stipulation that she will live there until her death.  She lives in Clearfield County.  What documents do we need and could you give us some idea of what it will cost?  My father died in October, and she still has to get his name taken off the deeds.  We had my father-in-laws will done at your office a few years ago, and we would like to have my mom's done by you also.  Thank you.  

Sure, I would be happy to meet with you.  I appreciate that you are returning to me to deal with this project.  Call me at 814-765-1711.  Looking forward to working with you again.  
 
Nightmare Trust and Deteriorating Mom:  My question is about mom.  Her mind continues to deteriorate.  How does one go about getting control of taking care of her bills, etc.?  My brother and I are executors of the trust dad set up.  That in itself is a nightmare.  Do you handle trusts after one passes away?  I don't want to look like I'm trying to take over her life but I want to be prepared as she is now down to 80 pounds and she is in very bad shape.  I don't need any surprises.  

Yes, I handle trusts.  Most of the questions about the way to deal with the trust can be answered by my review of the trust.  If you want to have your mom deemed incapacitated I would have to look at how the trust says that can be determined.  The possibility of a court ordered competency hearing exists but if your mother is so weak I doubt that she will be doing much in the way of selling of assets or messing things up financially anyway.  I am willing to meet with you and/or brother.  Just give my office a call to set it up.  
 
Revise a Living Trust:  My parents established a Living Trust several years ago.  My father has been deceased for 3 years, my mother is interested in revising the Living Trust.  I am looking for an attorney who may be able to assist us in this.  I found your information when I did a search on the internet for attorneys who have experience with Living Trusts.  I'm interested in additional information about how you may be able to assist us in updating the Living Trust.  

I would need to schedule your mother to come in for an appointment at which time I would read the living trust provisions and then discuss what changes are desired and the reasons for wanting the changes.  It may be that we can accomplish what your mother desires in some manner without changing the living trust.  I will try to determine what course(s) make the most sense and then let your mother chose from the options.  
 
Remove a mentally ill person from will:  We brought my father in about 3-4 years ago to have his will made.  He now wants to take my brother out of the will due to the fact that he is mentally ill.  He has now been in the hospital for 9 months.  This more than likely will become permanent.  What are the steps in getting this done?  He also wants to see if he can put money aside somehow for my brother's funeral expenses when he dies.  

I can assist him in estate planning if you will have him call my office and have my secretary Kimberly set up an appointment to discuss and clarify exactly what he wants to accomplish.  At that appointment we will set up a followup appointment to sign any documents which I may need to prepare.  

 

Probate Administration - Questions of concern in the administration of a decedent's estate are:

  • What assets are there?
  • Where are the assets located - in state or out of state?
  • Are the assets in need of protection from the elements or vandals or less than honest family members?
  • Do the assets require specialized protection or valuation?
  • Is it known where various investment and bank accounts are stored and accounted for?
  • Where is the will?
  • Funeral preplanned and paid for?
  • Any special arrangements needed for funeral or memorial or transportation or disposition of the body?
  • What debts does the decedent have?
  • Who owes the decedent?
  • What documents are in play here?
  • Are there any people who will contest the will?
  • Any who will claim to be related who are not dealt with in the will?
  • Was the decedent married?
  • Does the decedent have children?
  • If the decedent has deceased children - do they have children?
  • Was there a divorce after the making of the will?
  • Is there a divorce filed or expected?
Q&A's - Probate Administration - Click Here

 

What is Probate?  My grandfather just died and now the family has been told his estate is in probate, please tell me what probate is about and why do estates have to go through it?  How long will it take for his estate to get out of probate?  Is there any way to avoid probate?

Probate is the process used by the courts of our state to determine and confirm that the person alleged to have died did indeed die, who the proper party or parties are to administer (be in charge of) this estate, was there a will, was it the last will, who are the proper beneficiaries according to the will and if there is no will who are the proper heirs by law, what assets exist that were owned by the decedent, what debts exist that were due from the decedent, what taxes are due and at the end the notice of the final accounting must be published to allow creditors, family members or heirs to object to the distribution plan.  The process of probate generally takes about one year.  Sometimes partial distributions can be made at a point before the year is up.  If your grandfather had given all his assets away or held them in trust for someone else or held his assets in joint ownership with someone else when he died then, in that case, unless he owned some assets in his own name alone at his death, there would not have been anything to probate nor any need engage in the process of probate.  

 
Can a copy of a will be probated?  In 1985 you did a will for my father-in-law and his wife.  My father-in-law passed away in recently.  We have not been able to locate the original will although we have just found a copy with an original signature.  Do you know if the copy will be sufficient for probating?

In Pennsylvania the copy, even if it is signed, is not sufficient for probating unless it is clear that the original is not missing due to the actions of the testator.  For example if it can be proven that the original was destroyed by a fire or the actions of someone other than the Testator or someone who destroyed the original under his instructions.  The Pennsylvania presumption is that, if the Testator ever had the original in his possession, the lack of the original is due to the Testator's deliberate destruction of it so as to make it of no further effect.  
 
 
Undue Influence:  What I need is information on Estates where undue influence was found and then whether anyone has been surcharged as a result.  Thanks for any help or direction you may provide.  

There are numerous reported PA cases where undue influence has been found.  Usually the remedy is to rescind the contract or will and on some occasions there is a surcharge levied against the offending party.  Undue influence is a very difficult standard to prove and is very fact specific.  In other words all the facts are looked at from all directions to determine whether the influence which occurred is indeed "undue".  To some extent the decision hinges on the relationship between the parties and the mental, physical, emotional, and financial condition of one party as compared to the other.  Relative ages of the parties can also play a role as can their previous history with each other.  

You don't give me any facts in your inquiry but if you would like to contact my office and schedule an appointment I can dig deeper into the scenario with you and give you some ideas or opinion on the issues that you and I discuss at that appointment.  There would be an hourly charge for your appointment.  Please call my secretary at 765-1711 and schedule an appointment if you desire to proceed further.  

Thank you for your inquiry.  
 
Disposition of Property contrary to Will:  My mother died in 1996.  Left property to my older brother, but in the will it states that if it is ever sold that is divided equally between surviving children.  Earlier this year my brother transferred the property to a nephew for one dollar.  I have a copy of the will and deed transfer.  Do I have a case or am I out of my share of the property.

The answer is, it depends.  It depends on the circumstances, facts and actions by you and your brother as they relate to this piece of property both before and after your mother's death and any actions by your mother before her death as to this piece of property.

If the property is located in Pennsylvania then you would need to call my office and set up an appointment to come in with as much of the the following paperwork as you can bring:
  • A copy of your mother's will and any paperwork from the court relating to her estate.
  • A copy of any deeds relating to this property
  • Any correspondence between you and your brother dealing with this issue
  • You would need to be prepared to pay for a consultation one hour on the date and time of your appointment.  
If the property is not located in Pennsylvania then you will have to seek the advice of an attorney in the state in which the property is located.  

Thank you for contacting me.  I look forward to meeting with you.  
 
Joint owners with right of survivorship:  I purchased 2 adjoining properties with my sister last year.  I am married with three children.  My sister is divorced with a grown daughter.  At the time of purchase I was informed by my realtor that because PA is a common law state my wife was not required to be on the deed for my interest to pass to her upon my death.  Looking at our deed I saw my sister and I listed as joint tenants with right of survivorship.  When I looked what that meant, I was troubled as it says that the property would go to my sister, even if a will existed.  Is this correct?

You are correct.  As things stand now, the property would pass to the survivor since the choice of how it was to pass was preselected or determined in the deed.  The deed can be changed so long as the mortgagee (lender) does not object and consider it a violation of the "due on sale clause" found in most mortgages.  Call me for an appointment if you would like to resolve the problem.  When you come in bring your deed and mortgage papers (if you have them) for my review also.  

Thanks for contacting me.  I look forward to assisting you.  
 
Time limit to dispute estate administration:  I am interested in knowing if there is a time limit to dispute what has already happened with the death of my father and how his estate has been taken care of with regard to my mother who is still living.  Would you have time to talk to me on Aug 26th sometime, as I live out of state and am coming to PA that weekend.  I would appreciate some legal advice, in reference to a death with no will, and if there is a way to have medical power of attorney without having power of attorney.  I have a lot of questions that I would like answered and would like to know if you can accommodate me.  

I will be happy to meet with you on the 26th.  Please call for a specific time slot.  There are several different types of deadlines in dealing with estate objections.  You did not say whether your parents were married to each other at the time of your father's death but that will play a big part in how this case would work out.  Medical Powers of Attorney can be prepared as a separate document from a General Durable Power of Attorney.  Bring in all your estate information so we can discuss things intelligently at that time.  

 

Guardianship - People often assume guardianships are primarily for elderly persons suffering from dementia or physical infirmity.  In fact, special needs children approaching age 18 who are not able to and will not be able to independently care for themselves are also candidates for appointment of parental or other adult guardians.  This can only be done by the local Orphans Court and it is strongly recommended that the legal documents be filed and hearing(s) be completed before the child reaches the age of majority - 18 years of age.  Failure to act before the age of 18 will create a bizarre, frighting situation where the presumptively incapacitated child is now an adult and is deemed by law to be competent.  This creates a true legal emergency due to the HIPPA laws and rights to privacy since you will not be permitted access to his/her medical records nor permitted to be involved in his/her medical or mental treatments and therapies.  

Questions to consider include:

  • How old is the Ward (the person needing the protection of a guardian)?
  • Who is the proposed Guardian and what is their familial and legal relationship with the Ward?
  • Does the ward have assets?
  • What kind of income or assets?
  • Reports will have to be submitted annually to the Court
  • Where should the petition be filed?
Q&A's - Guardianship - Click Here

 

Guardianship of Grandmother:  I am currently the health care surrogate for my grandmother.  She recently moved from Florida to DuBois, PA to a nursing home near my aunt.  I believe that her dementia is to a point where she needs a guardian.  My grandmother has a pre-need declaration of guardianship listing me as her guardian.  I am also on her living will.  Another aunt who lives in North Carolina has power of attorney.  My grandmother established all this on the same day in 2005.  She made it clear that if she was not competent I was to take over as guardian and this authority would revoke the power of attorney.  Time is of the essence as I have reason to believe that my grandmother's interests may be compromised at this time and she needs a guardian.  

You will need to file a Petition For Guardianship.  Please arrange to bring in all your related paperwork and medical reports or records and call my office at 814-765-1711 to set up an appointment for the purpose of meeting with me.  We can discuss options and plans to proceed from there.  

 
Guardianship of Son:  We have a 17 year old son who is a special needs child and someone told us that one or both of us need to be appointed as his guardian before he is 18 or we will no longer be able to be in charge of his living choices or medical needs.  Is that true?  If so, can you help us?

Yes, that is correct.  It is a serious concern.  You should arrange to see me promptly as you will need to file a Petition For Guardianship.  It is best to file the Petition before your son reaches age 18.  Sometimes the judge will give you a temporary order to cover the time between the filing and the hearing but lets not count on that.  We want to try and have the hearing before your son turns 18.  Call my office at 814-765-1711 to set up an appointment.

 

Gas, Oil and Mineral Law - With the Marcellus Shale boom of recent years, there is renewed interest in this area of law.  Pennsylvania is one of the only states where Gas and Oil rights are not conveyed along with Mineral rights when land is deeded over to a new owner.  This has created a unique challenge in sorting out the issues of gas, oil and mineral ownership.  Attorney Durant restricts his involvement in these issues with landowners as opposed to the large gas and oil companies.  Items to be considered include:

  • Who wants to know?
  • Who are the owners and what do they own?
  • Are there any unresolved ownership interests?
  • Who wants to lease what?
  • What kind of issues need to be considered?
  • What use is being made of the property now and what changes are contemplated?
  • Consider the neighbors and the neighborhood.  
  • Sell or lease?
Q&A's - Gas, Oil and Mineral Law - Click Here

 

Questions about possible gas lease:  My husband and I purchased a house on approximately 8.5 acres.  We are very aware of the natural gas well drilling in our immediate area, with the closest planned well to be about a half mile from our house.  We would like to get some help in determining if we can sign a gas lease, the steps it would take to do so, and what our rights are.  Any information would be greatly appreciated.  

I would be happy to discuss this with you and your husband.  You should bring a copy of your deed with you and any information you have in the way of a title search or info as to whether the gas/oil rights are included or not in your property as purchased.  Also you should bring copies of any correspondence or proposed leases from gas leasing entities or individuals.  

Is one or more than one entity interested in leasing your 8.5 acres for natural gas production?

My current hourly office rate to discuss these matters is $220..00 and I would estimate that we would need between 2 and 4 hours depending upon the depth of discussion and amount of information desired.  I can discuss specific provisions of leases with you or general concepts of what to consider and what is reasonable.  

 
 
Great, Great, Great Grandson has a question:  I am a great, great, great grandson of a gentleman (name removed) who, with his daughter (name removed), at one time held mineral rights for tracts of land in several Pennsylvania counties.  My cousins and I would like to verify the validity of these rights.  Is this something you can help us with?
 

I generally limit my title search work for minerals, oil, gas or surface ownership to Clearfield County.  You are contemplating searching for unknown titles well over 100 years back, in at least three counties of Pennsylvania for ownership of mineral rights or land which was owned by a person five generations previous to your generation.  I consider it unlikely that at this time you or your cousins would have any legal claim to anything that old.  Even if you can prove physical descent from your great, great, great grandfather and prove what mineral rights or land he owned on a given date, you would have to prove that prior to his death he did not sell the asset, lose it by a judgment, or leave it to someone outside of the family by his Will and then do the same for each generation.  Many families had 6-12 children in each generation and thus any remaining asset (if it was still being passed down the line) by the time it passed to the sixth generation would likely be very small as to any one present day heir of this reportedly landed ancestor.  
 
Last Living Heir to Mineral Rights:  My mother's family has mineral rights and she is the last living heir. We gotten copies of deeds and the whole acreage is 175 acres but there are several deeds that make up the acreage.  Some say that a descendent of the founder of a neighboring town (Name removed) has rights.  We don't know where we stand and need some advice.  Also our mother is in a nursing home and we would like to know if we can transfer the rights to us.  My sister and I are POA.  We need some legal advice on what, if anything, we need to to do.  We can call and make an appointment if this is something you would handle.  

Yes, I can help you with these issues and would be happy to have you make an appointment.  You will need to bring copies of all relevant information (deeds and real estate tax bills) and we can discuss the nursing home issues as well.  

You may have to buy out mom's interest in the minerals as opposed to having her gift them to you because of nursing home issues.  But we can discuss that during the consultation.  We may also have to do a title to search to confirm what we have or do not have.  

Please bring in your powers of attorney for my review and reference.  

Is mom married, divorced or widowed?  If dad is deceased please bring in his death certificate in case we may need it to resolve issues.  

My staff will let you know what dates I would be available.  Thanks for contacting me.  
 
Need to protect mineral rights:  I am on the board of directors of a Rod and Gun Club.  We own approximately 1,000 acres in Clearfield county.  I am looking for an attorney to advise on oil and gas rights on our property.  We do not own the mineral rights on our land but wish to protect our interests none the less.  

I can help with that.  Please call and make arrangements to come in and speak with me.  As we discuss matters we will determine what needs to be done to maximize the protection of your property for the membership.  
 
Mineral Rights do not include gas & oil rights?  I inherited mineral rights on a certain percentage of 100 acres in Chest Township in Clearfield County.  I have not yet had the tax bill transferred into my name because part of the mineral rights I have been paying property tax on are listed as "Heirs of" I have been planning on finding who all the proper heirs are and getting the tax bill for each portion sent to each of them.  Recently an oil and gas company has sent notification that they are applying to drill a gas well on the property.  The gas company's letter implied that I only have coal rights.  I did a little internet research and found that in PA many times the oil and gas rights and the coal rights were separated.  What would your charges be to do a deed search to determine whether we in fact have just coal rights or if we do have oil & gas rights? Also, what would your charges be to have the mineral rights split up among the heirs so each would get their own tax bill?

You would need to have a title search done to determine the names and addresses for the other owners.  To determine oil and gas ownership we have to do a title search back to 1880 or earlier since that is about when they started breaking out the oil and gas ownership from the rest of the parcel.  In Pennsylvania mineral ownership in and of itself generally does not include the oil and gas rights.  To sell or reserve the oil and gas rights you have to specifically grant or reserve those, however, the sale of the surface of a parcel without mention of the oil and gas will carry the ownership of oil and gas to the new owner if the grantor owned those at the time of conveyance and failed to reserve oil and gas in the conveyance.  Please call my office at 814-765-1711 to set up a time to review these matters.  

 

 

Workers' Compensation - The initial consultation will be without charge and if representation is agreed upon it will be on a contingent fee basis (my fees will be taken out of the funds which I obtain for you).  

Questions we will be discussing at that initial interview include:

  • Did you notify your employer?
  • Who did you notify?
  • When did the injury occur?
  • Was your injury on premises?
  • Entering or leaving the premises?
  • On an errand for your employer?
  • Hurt by the actions of someone else?
  • Was there a defective piece of equipment?
  • Where you fired after the injury?
  • Are you presently collecting and looking to settle with the insurance carrier?
  • Are you being followed and photographed?
  • Are you being asked to take a job with lower pay or less hours than immediately before the injury?
  • Do you suffer from a work related illness?
  • Have you had a specific loss (facial, neck or body scarring, loss of eye, fingers or toes or arm, hand, leg, foot)?
  • Were you hurt on duty as a volunteer firefighter or as a policeman?
Q&A's - Workers' Compensation - Click Here

 

Traveling for medical treatment:  I am on workers comp for a work related injury.  Fell and sprained thumb and had surgery.  I am off work at this time.  I was told that if I have to travel outside the area for medical treatment, a distance further than the normal person in my area would travel to work, that my employer should reimburse me.  Is this true? And if so, is it based on travel time or mileage? And is that just while I'm still working or also while I am collecting workers comp benefits?  I live in DuBois and have to travel to Altoona to the doctor, and now to Clearfield for physical therapy.  I need to be able to show documentation to my employer if they are obligated to reimburse in some manner.  

Please call for an appointment to discuss this matter.  If the employer wants you to be reviewed by their doctor, there are obligations for the employer (usually through their insurance company) to pay for travel and perhaps, parking, a meal and a driver for you as well.  The reimbursement is based upon mileage and a reasonable meal allowance if the distance is such that a reasonable person would need to eat prior to the end of the round trip.  The obligation is triggered by the distance being further than people would usually travel to a physician but is subject to oversight by the Workers' Compensation Judge and a hearing can be obtained to have this determined by the W.C.  Judge.  I have been successful in having the W.C.  Judge order the trip in a medi-van at the employer's expense due to the condition of the employee.  

Personal Injury and Property Damages - Our initial consultation will be without charge and if representation is agreed upon it usually will be on a contingent fee basis (my fees will be taken out of the funds which I obtain for you).  In Pennsylvania you have two years in which to file suit for personal or property damages.

Issues and facts to be discussed will include:

  • When did the injury or damages occur?
  • When did you first know or have reason to know that an injury or damage had occurred?
  • Describe the damages or injuries in your own words.
  • Who do you believe was responsible for the injuries or damages?
  • What did the responsible party do or fail to do that directly led to the injuries or damages?
  • Who are your witnesses?
  • Did anyone admit they were responsible for the damages or injuries?
  • Did you have "full tort" automobile insurance coverage? Even if you did not you may still be able to sue.
  • Bring in your automobile insurance declarations page so we can discuss under-insurance and un-insurance coverage.
  • Bring in all bills and medical records in your possession.
  • Were alcohol or drugs a factor in this accident?
  • Were there multiple vehicles involved?
Q&A's - Personal Injury and Property Damages - Click Here

Automobile Accident - Limited Tort:  I was involved in an automobile accident when 16 year old boy coming towards me lost control of his car and was fishtailing.  He came over the yellow line and hit me on the side.  My Chevy Blazer was pushed into an embankment, rolled over and landed on its roof.  I still have periodic pain in my lower back, and daily pain in my right shoulder.  I was x-rayed at the hospital after the accident.  No breaks were found.  I have an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon tomorrow.  I was contacted by the insurance adjustor recently.  He told me that since the accident was their drivers fault they could pay me for pain and suffering, but only if I had full tort.  Well I don't have full tort.  I feel like I deserve some compensation.  I have many sleepless nights because of the pain.  I can do a lot of things I did before but I do them in pain.  Is there any legal recourse?  Can you help me if there is?

Thanks for contacting me.  I would be willing to speak with you in person if you call for an appointment to come in.  No charge or obligation for the consultation.  If I were to take the case it would be on a contingent fee basis (you pay me out of what we collect).  

Limited Tort does provide a significant barrier to collecting in an accident and I always advise my clients not to select limited tort.  The savings is not worth the loss of your right to sue.  One accident in a lifetime that you could bring suit for (if you did not have limited tort) and that you are not permitted to bring suit for (because you selected limited tort) is likely to more than offset any savings from selecting limited tort.  Frankly I feel sure that the limited tort option is a gimmick which benefits the insurance companies not the policy holders and that is why the insurance companies lobbied to add that option to the law.  

There are some exceptions to the inability to sue if one has limited tort.  The seriousness of your injuries and the fact that the other driver was driving impaired under the influence of drugs or alcohol come to mind.  

 
Property damaged by oil spill:  My property was damaged by oil spilled from the truck that crashed on State Route 119 South in Punxsutawney, PA this past Monday.  A clean-up crew has been contracted by the oil company to address the issue and is proceeding with reclamation efforts.  My question concerns whether any reparations are in order because of the devaluation caused by the removal of trees and soil from the site.  I would like to know if I have any recourse for compensation beyond the reclamation of this wetland.  

I would think you would be entitled to damages for any diminution in value of the real estate but the thing to do is to call my office 814-765-1711 and ask my Secretary, Kim to set you up for a consultation where we can discuss the matter at no charge for the initial consultation.  We can decide where we want to go from that point.  
 
Son involved in an accident with a deer:  I'm facing a lawsuit.  My son was driving my car when a deer ran in front of him which he could not avoid hitting.  The deer bounced off the hood and flew over my car and hit another vehicle coming from the other direction.  That vehicle was damaged and the driver was badly hurt.  The injured driver has filed a lawsuit against my insurance company.  My insurance company told me I should get legal advice.  The judgement might exceed the max amount of coverage I have on my policy in which case I would be responsible for any balance.  Any advice would be helpful.  This would most likely bankrupt my wife and I.  

When a deer runs in front of you that is considered an "act of God" and you are not liable for the consequences if your actions are appropriate under the circumstances.  It would also be considered a "sudden emergency" and certainly the way the deer bounced or was thrown after being hit does not change anything nor make you liable.  Your son was not speeding or under the influence of alcohol or drugs was he?  Your son was driving, you were not.  Unless he was particularly on an errand for you or he was driving without a license and you permitted it, you are not liable just because he is your son nor are you liable just because the car was owned by you.  

Anyone can sue you for anything.  That does not mean you will be found to be liable.  This is precisely why we have insurance.  Your insurance company must provide you with a defense and if there is any chance that a judgment may exceed the amount of your coverage they are required to inform you of your right to retain private counsel.  It doesn't seem likely to me that there will be any liability let alone an excess verdict.  If you wish to discuss your coverage and your assets and the form of ownership of those assets with an eye toward determining what assets a judgment creditor could reach please give my office a call at 814-765-1711 to set up an appointment.  If you decide you do want personal legal counsel in addition to your insurance company lawyer I am willing and we can discuss that as well.  
 
Motorcycle Accident caused by Gravel:  I recently wrecked my motorcycle due to loose gravel on the road.  The road was recently repaved and a stone shoulder was laid.  That stone had got thrown onto the road by other cars and resulted in my accident.  I contacted the insurance company of the construction company that did the repaving and they are denying any liability in the accident.  Do I have a case against them to pay for the damage that was done?  There were construction signs still up along the road where I wrecked, doesn't that mean that the road contractor is still responsible for cleanup of that road as long as they are still there?

As I look at your fact scenario I do not see liability on the part of the road contractor.  As you pointed out there is an intervening cause for the stones being on the roadway (cars traveling on the roadway).  I also think this is one of the risks you take when you ride a two wheeled vehicle at speed.  There is a legal theory that says you can not sue someone for the risk you assumed (which resulted in or was a substantial cause of the injury) when you engaged in the act - riding the motorcycle.  Many things are dangerous to motorcycles which are not of serious concern to automobiles and any person riding a motorcycle is trained and made aware of those items and chooses to ride in spite of the dangers.  I do not know how fast you were going or what the weather, traffic or personal circumstances were but those are other possibilities an insurance company would use to defend against your suit.  For these reasons I do not believe the law will permit you to be successful under the circumstances which you relat.  

The signs do not help you.  They would tend to be looked at as having put you on notice that there is a potentially dangerous condition ahead and therefore to be cautious in proceeding - this is especially so with a motorcycle because of its greater vulnerability to any abnormal road conditions.  
 
Injured by a bag of Potato Chips:  I just wondered if I might have a case and wanted your opinion.  Sunday, while watching the Steelers game, we were eating wavy potato chips.  The bag was about half full and one of my bites contained a small piece of what looks like gravel, which chipped one of my back teeth.  I saved the bag, and piece of gravel.  I don't think it's serious, but I am not a professional.  However, it is starting to hurt and will require attention by my dentist.  I am not looking forward to this at all, because to make matters worse, I have dental phobia, which has put me in somewhat of a panic attack since this happened.  I have read similar cases like this online against the potato chip company and just wanted to see if you thought that it was worth pursuing.  If not, I will just write them a letter, including the bag and gravel.  

I would not be interested in taking this case.  While foreign substances in food are always unacceptable and some contact with the manufacturer and vendor should be made, I just do not think the damages are serious enough for me to crank up the legal and judicial machinery.  I could be wrong.  Please continue to seek legal help if you believe your damages/injuries warrant engaging in the process.  It is possible that another attorney will agree with you.  
 
Injured playing on an oil rig:  I am a law clerk at E.  S.  & Associates, an urban personal injury law firm.  I am contacting you because we have a 17 year old client who was injured while playing on a pump jack that was part of an oil well.  The well was in a rural area in the DuBois/Clearfield region and was not fenced in.  We would like to argue that, while there may not be a general law which explicitly says that oil wells must be fenced in, fencing oils wells/pump jacks is part of the industry standards/common practices of the industry.  I have received contrary evidence (that it is actually custom to NOT fence them in) and I would like to know if you agree with that assertion.  Any information or insight that you have is greatly appreciated.  

I believe the custom here is and has been to NOT fence them in.  Perhaps the fence would stop someone but I know that most (male) children would be drawn to a fence as just another barrier to be conquered or hill to be climbed.  

 

 

 

 

Business Law - From business formation and incorporation to drafting business agreements and contracts, Attorney Durant offers business law advice, services and counsel all of which are designed to help you address the various actual and potential issues relating to protection of your assets and the stability and well-being of your business.  Starting your own business is best done with careful legal assistance and planning.  Items to be thought through include:

  • Do you want to enter into a sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, corporation?
  • Do you have a business plan?
  • Will you be borrowing funds?
  • What will be your collateral?
  • Who will be the guarantor(s)?
  • Who will involved in the business with you?
  • What will be their involvement and their payment?
  • What are your expectations and the expectations of the other participants? Are these in writing?
  • What types of liability are being risked?
Q&A's - Business Law - Click Here

 

Small Business Owner:  We are a small family owned business and have a couple concerns with various subjects.  We would like to discuss vacation and sick day usages and pay, hourly and salary pay and overtime.  Also, review our employee handbook and legal documents.  

I would be pleased to meet with you or a representative from your family business, to discuss vacation and sick day usages and pay, hourly and salary pay and overtime.  I am also willing to review your employee handbook and legal documents.  

I think I would need to have an initial consultation with your representative to review the details of your concerns and to get acquainted with your business.  About an hour should be sufficient.  Then if we both think I can provide some assistance we would schedule another meeting allowing me to research any issues in the interim and thus be prepared for properly advise your representative.  

Please call my office for an appointment at a suitable day and time.  As you may already know my telephone number is 765-1711.  Thank you for contacting me.  

 
I want to open a credit repair business:  I am interested in opening a credit repair business and have some questions regarding guidelines and regulations to do so.  Any information would be very helpful.  

I am not familiar with the specifics of the credit repair business.  I find the whole concept of credit scoring full of logical inconsistencies.  I know of people who pay their debt down and then their credit score goes down.  Your score can go down for too many credit lines or not enough credit lines or too little owed or too much owed or too many inquiries from potential creditors even though this was from shopping for a car and each dealer checked the credit out when the guy wanted to know what his deal would be for the car and he didn't even buy a car.  

I think credit scoring is abusive and I would not know how to repair this.  As far as I know even the local bankers in this area are not sure what to do about a dipping credit score.  Unfortunately borrowing now is even more dependent upon your credit score than it was a few years ago and for this reason many bankers are unable to lend to the people they would have lent to three years ago.  

So you see you got me going here for a moment.  I can help you structure and open a business but for specifics of the credit repair business, I cannot help you as I do not have any experience in that field.  
 
Incorporating a church:  I pastor a church in rural Pennsylvania.  Our local congregation has recently made the decision to pursue incorporation.  To that end we need a lawyer who can walk us through the process and make sure that the appropriate forms are filed correctly.  

When the local church board decided to incorporate the decision was made to hire a Christian lawyer.  To that end, I remembered your name and made the decision to contact you about your services.  

To that end, I have a couple of questions:
1.  Do you handle matters of church incorporation?
2.  What would the projected cost of incorporation be if we would do so through your law firm?

Yes, I do handle church incorporation matters.  I project legal fees of $650.00 - $700.00 to meet with you and or your board and to prepare and file the proper forms in Harrisburg for a PA Non-Profit Corporation (this would include the $125.00 which are the present filing costs), plus the actual costs of advertising the corporation (estimated to be about another $100.00 - $150.00), plus the cost of obtaining a corporate book and seal (estimated to be about another $125.00).  The total thus is estimated to be about $875.00 - $1,100.00.  I would anticipate two meetings with you and your board or leadership in my office and this is included in the price quoted.  
 
What can Board members do?  Can board members vote other board members off and vote their own family members in?

It all depends on whether this matter is addressed in the by-laws of the corporate entity.  If the by-laws do not prohibit it then the manner in which the voting is done and way the notice of the upcoming vote is communicated to the parties in interest still must be done in the proper way.  Usually corporations have a required percentage for votes on certain issues and a requirement to give notice of upcoming votes on certain issues to the shareholders or members (i.e.  interested parties) a certain minimum time period in advance.  The law does not favor secret meetings or violations of one's own rules.  
 
Business destroyed by an investor:  I was self-employed contractor, "flipping" distressed properties for profit.  My investor and his wife have destroyed my business, causing me huge losses (I made them a lot of money this past year).  They have all of my tools (over $3,000) and have offered me $1,000 to walk away.  We have a contract.  I need an out-of-county attorney.  Can you help?

I would qualify as an "out-of-county attorney" but McKean county is too far out of my area for me to be able to handle your case.  Your court in Smethport is 80 miles from my office and according to my recollection about 2 hours each way.  Where you live is even further from Clearfield of course.  

I would think that from what you describe you may be able to go to the local or state police and file a criminal complaint against your "investor" and his wife for theft of your tools.  If the police investigate and agree that the tools are yours (I assume you can prove they are) failure to allow you to retrieve your property is a form of theft in PA.  Even if your investor thinks you owe him money he cannot withhold your property from you without a judgment or a perfected security interest in those tools.  The police will not charge you any money to file their complaint.  If the police will not file a complaint you still may be able to file a "private criminal complaint" with your local magistrate (District Justice).  Go into his or her office if you do not get any satisfaction from the police.  A private action may require the approval of the county district attorney and you will need to follow the procedure.

 

Real Estate - Residential real estate purchases, sales or transfers.  Title insurance and closing procedures.  Attorney Durant offers step-by-step guidance throughout varying real estate law issues.  In the current economic environment, many people are interested in "Rent to Own" agreements.  These can be potentially hazardous for both the buyer and the seller.  Too often these agreements are "drafted at home" by buyer or the seller providing protection for neither.  Over the years, Attorney Durant has come to the aid of clients who have been forced to abandon costly renovations to a home they thought they were buying.  Or they want to "evict" the people who were buying the home as if they were tenants instead of buyers.  Invariably these situations are due to flaws in the homemade agreements which could have been addressed in a manner protective of both the buyer and seller had an attorney been consulted and proper documents prepared.  

Some questions that will be discussed for any real estate transaction are:

  • Do you want to keep property in the family?
  • Will there need to be a subdivision?
  • Has a price been determined?
  • Will you be using a real estate broker?
  • Have you entered into a written agreement?
  • Is there anything about the property which could be dangerous or illegal or subject to state or federal pollution issues?
  • Is there public water/sewage?
  • Is the title clear?
  • How do you know the title is clear?
  • Are there unresolved estate or tax issues or multiple owners?
  • Who are the buyers and how do they wish to hold title?
Q&A's - Real Estate - Click Here

 

Secretive Mother Quandary:  My husband and I are trying to take over the mortgage on my mother-in-law's house because we are fearful she will lose her house.  Many hundreds of dollars are already owed for back taxes.  She is giving us the run around about everything.  We know the name of the bank that holds the mortgage.  The bank will not talk to us because the house is in her name.  If we move into the house after paying my mother-in-law a down payment, could the house be sold for unpaid taxes if she doesn't pay the taxes?

The answer is yes.  You also need to be concerned about whether the bank is actually being paid.  There may be other mortgages or liens on the property.  

You should not enter into any agreement to buy real estate that is not in writing and that does not address the potential issues.  

The bank will probably not allow you to "take over the mortgage" on your mother-in-law's house.  If they find out you are trying to do so, they may declare the remaining balance due and payable from your mother-in-law.  This is now the usual provision in Pennsylvania home mortgages.  

Based on your email, I suspect that there are other things your mother-in-law is not telling you that may be important.  You may lose your down payment if you are not careful.  There may be a way to do this but it needs to be done with care and proper legal analysis.  

I would be willing to deal with this if you call my office at 765-1711 and set up an appointment.  Thanks for contacting me.  
 

 
Father & Son Want to Build Hunting Camp:  I own property in Clearfield County on which my son wishes to build a hunting camp.  I am retired Air Force and my son is Air Force active duty stationed in GA.  (I noticed your previous affiliation with the wetter branch of the military and hope you won't throw me to the sharks because of that.)  Before we get too far along on building the camp I told him we should probably contact an attorney to check out any legal ramifications we may run into vis-a-vis his name or mine as owner of the house regarding taxes, insurance, liability etc.  or other areas we may not have considered.  I don't have contact with an attorney in your area and am interested in knowing if your firm may be interested in discussing this matter with us?

Yes I can and will represent you and help in any way necessary.  Among other things, I do quite a bit of real estate work.  All of it helps keep food on the table!

You may want me to do a title search (if that has not been done it should be done before substantial expenditures are affixed to the ground) or assist you through the sub-division process (if you are going to parcel off a piece of ground) or you may just want to put your son's name on the deed either jointly with you or in his name alone or whatever.  You may also need to check into a building permit or sewage permit, etc.  I can help in any of those areas.  

I would be pleased to represent you and/or your son.  Air Force no problem for me.  Any military background is very respectable in my opinion.  Please call me so we can discuss the details so I can have a better idea of what you wish to have done.  
 
Rent to Own Dilemma:  We were doing a rent-to-own on a house, which we never received a lease for.  We kept contacting the landlord and trying to get one but never did.  The house needed worked on so we were making small improvements as we went but until we got the lease we didn't want to do any big ones.  The roof really needed fixed due to it leaking.  So when we asked him one last time for the lease and he refused and came up with more reasons not to give us one, we decided to move out.  It's in the middle of winter now and when we called to get the gas turned off they said the home owner must call and say its ok to turn it off or put it in their own name.  Well he refuses to do either until we winterize it or he does it himself.  Which means we will continue paying to heat that house that we don't live in.  I believe he shouldn't be able to do that due to us not having a contract or lease stating that we were responsible for winterization if we left during winter months.  So we are calling the gas company in the morning to see if they can go around him and take us off and if not what else could we possible do?  We are at an end here with the cost of having to pay the first months rent and security deposit for a new place not by choice but for the safety of our family.  It was no longer safe to live there and the fixing up we needed to do was major work and a lot of money we weren't willing to do without a lease or contract.  Please contact me back if you can help us in any way.  I just need to know what we can do.  Thank you for your time.  

I suggest you call, text, email or write to your "landlord" [so you have a copy of what you told him if you need it at a magistrate's hearing] and tell the landlord that you have moved out and are going to turn off the natural gas in whatever time-frame gives him fair notice under the circumstances.  You could turn down the thermostat to 50 degrees or so.  You could turn off the gas at the meter.  Neither of those will stop you from getting a bill but it will greatly lower the bill.  

The Natural Gas company is worried about the liability from the house freezing and you are worried about the same thing.  You would think the landlord would be worried enough to put the bill in his name but if he is not then I think you would not likely be liable if you gave him what a judge would think was reasonable notice under the circumstances.  I don't know how far away the landlord lives but the amount of notice should depend on how long it would take him to get your message and act promptly (but not immediately) to take care of the issue.  I would think, all he would have to do is to call the Natural Gas company and ask them to put the bill in his name.  Maybe he has poor credit and the gas company will not put it in his name?

If you take these actions and the problem is not resolved, please let me know and we can proceed with legal remedies.  
 
Another Rent to Own Dilemma:  We have been buying a home on a lease to own agreement for almost two years.  We have a signed contract with the owner of the house.  We are approved for financing to pay her off and she can not provide a clear deed.  We have just found out that she has filed chapter 13 bankruptcy.  She wanted $62,000 for the house and the appraisal came in at $58,500.  

We gave her $2,000 down and began payments.  We have put a lot of money into this house in repairs.  We have receipts for all the materials we have bought.  We have a video of the mess this house was in when we moved into it.  We have the contract that we signed with her, the appraisal and the title search that shows all the liens and unpaid taxes.  According to her own contract she had us sign she is in default.  Is there anything we can do?

I would be pleased to review your documents and speak with you if you would call my office and schedule an appointment through my staff.  I would charge for the consultation and review on an hourly basis.  I would think there is something you can do about this problem but we will need to determine whether the solution is financially reasonable.  The Chapter 13 Trustee will have to agree to release or abandon the property to your claim and it is possible that the Chapter 13 Bankruptcy may actually help you free up the property from some other competing claimant.  The answer lies in the details of course.  
 
Sale by Owner:  I live in Clearfield Co.  I am selling my residence without a realtor.  I have a buyer.  I have completed a sellers disclosure, however have nothing further.  What will it cost me to use your services to complete the sale.  Also what would the closing costs be for the buyer with a price of $127,000.  Thank you.  

Thank you for your email inquiry.  I would estimate it would cost you $250.00 - $300.00 for my fees to conclude this matter.  This assumes a normal smooth closing without problems or attempts by either side to extort the other with "gotcha" tactics.  

The buyer's closing costs are going to be at least $1,257.00 for his share of the transfer tax fees (yours would be the same); and the recording costs for the deed and any mortgage documents.  I estimate those to be about $150.00.  The other items I would classify as closing fees would be determined by the bank or mortgage broker who the buyer chooses and whether the lender requires title insurance, document prep, application fees, credit check fees, inspection fees, pre-paid insurance and prepaid real estate taxes, etc.  The buyer should have a title search and legal representation even if they are using their own funds to buy the house.  If the buyer uses a lender, then it will require a title search.  The legal representation and the title search costs will be dependent upon who is hired to do such work.  

I hope this response was helpful to you.  Contact me if you wish to proceed further.  
 
Looking for Rent-to-Own House:  My husband and I are looking for information on real estate and how you could help with a rent-to-own deal.  A friend of mine suggested your office as you were able to help her with her house.  I'm just looking for more information.  We're in the early stages of searching for a house for sale by owner who would be interested in doing rent-to-own.  We need information on how we could do it legally so it would cover us and the person selling.  Thank you for your time!

When you have a property picked out and the purchase price is agreed to, you should contact me and I can prepare the documents to protect you.  Any time you deal with real estate the terms should all be in writing and you must make sure you deal with all the likely issues.  I can make sure the issues are covered and I use a set of documents to take care of this type of deal which is called an Installment Sales Agreement.

When you have found the house and know the terms you should call me to set up an appointment at 765-1711.  Thanks for contacting me.  
 
Interested in Property - Wants to Avoid Price Increase:  Several years ago you represented a creditor with a lien on a property in your area.  I now have another matter in Clearfield county, and I am contacting you for assistance.  In the spring of 2010 a title agent insured a property in a Clearfield County Borough for a Camp, but failed to except out a 1.326 acre tract which, it turns out, had been previously deeded by the local Rails to Trails, Inc.  to two other persons (names removed).  The Camp wishes to acquire title to this small tract and has had some discussion with one of the owners about price, but we need local counsel to contact the owners and reach an agreement on behalf of the Camp.  

Can you help us with this?  I would rather not contact the owners directly because the asking price might be raised if it is known that we are involved.  He bought the tract in 2001 for $1,000 and initially asked $3,000 to sell it to the camp, but more recently raised his price to $5,000.  

Let me know if you can help us with this.  

I see no reason why I could not or would not be able to help you in this matter.  I am willing to discuss the matter with you by telephone or in person and upon receiving proper guidance and assurances of necessary parameters I would be willing to contact the owners of the tract of land which you are interested in purchasing.  For example, we would need to discuss how my entry into the picture can be accomplished without further elevating the demand price.  I am also concerned that I not be exposed to some personal liability for representation of an undisclosed principal (if for some reason the company should renege on a deal I worked out and the seller should desire to enforce the agreement against me personally).  Perhaps we can accomplish the matter with an option to buy which I then assign to your principal or yet another third party.  

Please contact me next week and lets see how you want to deal with this.  I am providing my secretary with a copy of my response so she is tuned in when you call.  

Thank you for contacting me.  
 
I want to add children's name to my deed:  I have two parcels in the Burnside, PA Township (located near DuBois) that are currently in my name only.  I would like to add my children's names on the deed.  Can you help me with this and if so, what is an approximate cost associated with it?  There is no mortgage on the property and the taxes are all current.  

I will need information from you to ensure that we have the correct properties.  The information will be on your Real Estate Tax Statements or Receipts and your Deeds.  Please have them available when you call.  

I will also need your children's names and addresses that you wish to add to the Deed.  The estimated costs for us to prepare the Deeds and have them recorded will be $525.00 - $600.00.  Please let me know if you want us to proceed.  
 
Consult an attorney sooner, rather than later....here's why:  We are in the process of buying a house.  It was supposed to be an "as is" sale.  The bank we are using has been "playing games" - telling us one interest rate and then raising it a quarter of a percent.  The bank also made us find a contractor to fix certain things wrong with the house before they will lend us the funds.  We are too far into the house deal to back out now.  My husband was laid off last year and only worked 90 days so far this year.  If we don't get this loan, we may not get another loan.  The bank even nit-picked on leveling the stairs entering the house.  We are fed up.  What can we do?  If we did decide to sue, would we have grounds?

Since the purchase was "AS IS" you were on notice that there were going to be some issues with the house.  But since you needed to borrow money from someone else (i.e.  the lender, your bank) they do have the right to require certain standards to be met as to properties on which they lend money.  If the bank cannot be dealt with perhaps you can find another or get someone to help with a second mortgage or work on the property and agree to accept payments.  Usually what ever the agreement of sale says is the law between the parties and what everyone has to live with.  But if you cannot come up with enough money and the seller will not or cannot finance the sale you may lose your deposit.  

If you wish to deal further on this I will need more information.  Please set up an appointment.  
 
Regarding Transfer Tax:  Looking for a Real Estate Attorney to review contract and represent myself and a friend in the purchase of land in Clearfield County (Orchard Club off Caledonia Pike).  Also interested in PA Transfer Tax customs.  We are being asked to pay the 2% whereas we know others that have bought land in PA and were told it is customary the 2% is split between the buyer and seller.  

I am willing to assist you.  You are correct, the customary terms are for the buyer and the seller to each pay one-half of the 2% transfer tax.  However in a contract, the arrangement can be made for either party to pay the whole thing.  Whatever the parties agree to becomes the rule of the case.  

 

 

Adoption - Attorney Durant most often assists with familial or stepparent adoption process.  Adoption issues arise in today's blended or broken families with parents who are not married or are no longer living together.  Those type of adoptions are called "familial adoptions" and they are encountered more frequently than the other classic type of adoptions which are called "stranger adoptions" (that is adoptions of a newborn baby by unrelated parties).  The pre-adoption requirements are less rigorous for "familial adoptions" and usually the adoptee is already living with the proposed adoptive parent(s) before any paperwork is filed.  

Here are some of the questions we will address when pursuing adoption for your family:

  • How is the adoptive child related to you or your spouse?
  • Is the adoptee 12 years of age or over? Willing to consent?
  • If you have other children, what are their ages?
  • Are both natural parents living and if so are they willing to consent?
  • Will involuntary termination of parental rights be required?
  • Are there any special needs for this child?
  • Are there any benefits providing medical coverage to be considered?
  • Does the adoptee have assets?
  • Has there ever been an adoption involving this child?
Q&A's - Adoption - Click Here

 

Adoption of my son:  I have a 7 year old son, by a man that resides in California.  My husband would like to adopt him.  The biological father is agreeable, and willing to sign any papers needed.  I am going to visit California soon, and would like to take any papers with me for him to sign.  I would like to get information and the process started asap.  Thank you.  

Thank you for contacting me.  Assuming that you and your husband have lived in Clearfield County for at least the past six months and based upon the facts you describe, I can prepare and file an adoption petition for you.  

Please set up an appointment with my secretary, at which time we can meet and go over the details.  From there we can make the arrangements needed to proceed in time for your trip to California.  

 
Termination of Bio Dad's Parental Rights:  My daughter's bio father has not seen her in 5 years, and I would like to have his parental rights taken.  My husband would like to adopt her.  

Please call my office for an appointment to come in and discuss termination of parental rights and adoption by your present husband.  When you come in you will need to gather up all your information about custody, support and visitation and bring it in with you.  I do charge my hourly rate for consultations such as this and at that time we can discuss whether you wish to proceed further, what the likelihood of success is and the estimated cost.  
 
Adoption of Pre-Teen:  My fiance and I live in Clearfield County.  My 12 year old son has asked my fiance to adopt him.  We are to be married this summer.  My son will be heading into the high school next year and we would like his adoption to be complete before school starts.  How long does this process usually take? And what are the approximate costs? Thank you so much for your time.  

Please call my office for an appointment to come in and discuss whether the adoption will be consentual or whether it will be involuntary (as to the non-adoptive natural parent) and what dates would work best to file the adoption petition as well as the likely costs.  Adoption cannot take place unless the child who is 12 or older will consent and the "other parent" the one who will not be doing the adopting has had his or her rights terminated either voluntarily or involuntarily.  Rights cannot be terminated involuntarily unless certain criteria are met, so it is not always possible to terminate the "other parent's" rights.  
 
Foreign Adoption Requirements:  My wife and I recently returned from China where we adopted our daughter.  After we returned home, our agency e-mailed us information about PA recognizing the foreign adoption and about how we should accomplish this.  I put together what information that I could and took it to the Courthouse.  As I understand it, PA recognizes foreign adoptions under 23 Pa.C.S §2908 and will issue a PA birth certificate and PA adoption Decree, but I do not know how to get all of the forms or how to accomplish this.  Would you be able to assist us with this process, and if so what would be the cost?  Please call or e-mail us with your thoughts.  

The area of the law (and the particular section, (i.e.  23 Pa.C.S §2908) in which you are interested was changed (by Act 2006-96).  What was formerly a voluntary act by adoptive parents who wished to register their foreign adoption has now become a mandatory duty to register every foreign adoption (evidenced by use of the adopting parent shall file) and a review process has been called for by the legislature which requires the President Judge of each county to put in place procedures to accomplish this and the procedure now includes a judicial hearing to obtain confirmation of the validity of the adoption.  I do not know the reasons for the change in the law, which went into effect on September 6, 2006.  It does appear to be an attempt to address and prevent adoption abuses which our legislature fears/believes may be occurring in foreign countries.  If you wish to have me represent you, I will do so and my best estimate of fees would be $600.00-$1,000.00 with $600.00 being the minimum and the retainer required.  
 
Adoption records of a deceased person:  I was wondering if adoption records of deceased individuals are ever open to descendants?

Not that I am aware of without a special petition to the court that handled the adoption.  For example, I am sure that someone seeking that type of information would have to have some very very good reasons to need that information beyond mere curiosity.  

 

Miscellaneous Matters - The main areas of the Timothy Durant law firm practice have been laid out in summary form on the "Areas of Practice" page and in some detail on this page.  However, as in any general practice, there are a myriad of issues that require legal services that don't fall neatly into any of the main areas of emphasis.  If your issue is not covered on this website, it still may be something for which Attorney Durant can provide assistance.  Please keep in mind that while Attorney Durant does not accept criminal, bankruptcy, divorce, custody cases or highly specialized areas, such as patents, trademarks or SEC matters, he does provide legal services for most other issues that people living in rural or small towns might encounter.  

 
Q&A's - Miscellaneous Matters - Click Here

 

Collection of a debt:  I am the credit manager for our company, a distributor of products throughout the U.S.  We have a client in your area who owes us a significant amount of money.  I would like to know if you are interested in working with us on anything legal to get this collected?  I would like to know if you work on contingency or hourly and what your rates are.  I would be interested in talking with you if you would be interested in looking into this further.  

I would be pleased to look into the matter for you and assuming no conflict of interest (for example, I need to make sure the defendant is not a client of mine), I would be pleased to quote rates and options and ultimately represent your firm it we reach an agreement.  Please let me know if you believe I can be of assistance to your company.  

 
Abusive Relationships:  This information is needed for my sister.  She is 58 years old.  She currently lives with her son who is 23 years old.  He is very violent toward her.  He even hit her once.  She wants him to leave her house but is afraid to tell him so.  She has asked him to leave before but he refuses.  He pays no rent nor does he even help with the food bill.  He is verbally abusive and has threatened to beat her and damage her car and other property.  Is there anyway she can get him to leave without the fear of retaliation?  She can't afford an attorney or even money to move.  Can you help us or refer us to someone?

If the threats were recent your sister should call the police immediately.  If the threats are "old" then she may not have as good a case for a PFA (Protection From Abuse) petition.  If she is really afraid for her life or physical well being due to abuse by her son then I suggest she go to the nearest police station and discuss it with an officer.  I believe your sister may also be able to obtain assistance with this from the District Justice for her area.  
 
When can children decide where they want to live?  I have a daughter living in DuBois PA, with her mother.  She is 16 years old and attending high school.  Recently my daughter has expressed her desire to relocate to North Carolina.  Her reasons are sound, and her thinking is clear.  She is a bright young woman.  She wishes to complete her H.S.  education in N.C.  then continue on to college.  We live in the Charlotte area.  I'm contacting you to establish whether or not there is a PA statute that gives my daughter the right to choose what parent she lives with.  At this point the request to relocate has been denied by the mother, and the child is not being permitted to communicate with me via phone, e-mail,etc.  I may need some local legal help.  What type of fees can I expect for this kind of work.  Please note I'm a regular guy with a regular income.  Thanks in advance for your comments.  

Pennsylvania leaves decisions of custody up to parties or if they cannot agree then it is up to a judge after a hearing.  PA case law gives increasing weight to the child's choice from the age of 12 and upward.  The ultimate decision is required to be based upon the best interests of the child.  Thus, not easy to predict the outcome and much depends upon how the child and the parties come across in court (i.e.  how reasonable, rational and stable they seem).  I do not do this type of work anymore if I can help it.  One of the main reasons is the emotional baggage and the unpredictability for me and for my clients.  When asked for references as to who to use I have other attorneys I can recommend.  
 
Drafting a Custody Agreement:  Since I last emailed you, I have come to an agreement with my son's father.  We have a mutual agreement between the two of us but would still like some paperwork filed.  We would like to set up an agreement outlining an exchange after I move, holidays, etc.  We already agree on these things so there are no foreseeable problems.  If you would be willing to file the paperwork for me I would love to set up an appointment with you.  If you would be interested please let me know.  

Yes, I would be willing.  Please call my office and set up an appointment.  Tell my secretary (now Kimberly), that you have pre-cleared it with me and it is just a matter of setting up a time and date, which she can do.  Are you coming with your son's father or by yourself first?  Let my secretary know.
 
Dog was Stolen:  My dog was stolen Saturday by a resident of Grampian, PA, and I was just curious as to what your laws are?  Do I need a lawyer?  How would I go about getting my dog back?

If the dog was stolen in Pennsylvania you need to call the police department which covers the jurisdiction where the dog was stolen from or the jurisdiction which covers the area where the thief lives.  This seems like a matter for the police and the district attorney not a civil matter.  Thanks for contacting me though.
 
Can they fire me for this?  I worked for a large national retailer for more than 9 yrs.  I was fired for making inappropriate comment.  My regional personnel manager thought that was too severe so they hired me back.  Two weeks later I was fired again because they were told I have a criminal background and they had to check on it.  They went off my application for my first term of employment.  When I was rehired they did not request or require me to fill out an application for my second term of employment.  Did they have the right to fire me?

Yes, they probably did have that right.  Unless you have an employment contract, any employer can fire a person for any reason as long as that reason does not violate protected status, like civil rights.  But another issue is, can you apply for and receive unemployment benefits.  You certainly can apply for them and unless you were fired for misconduct or failing to meet employee obligations that all employers have a right to expect of their employees, such as theft, failing to show up for work on time, or refusing to do your work, you should be able to collect unemployment.  

The unemployment system is designed to cover you in the event that your employer is treating you unfairly.  It is not designed to be a long term solution but it will help while you look for new employment.  

I recommend that you apply for PA unemployment and then begin the process of looking for a new job.  Of course an inappropriate comment is dangerous to your status as an employee so try not to do that again!

I can tell that you believe the fact that they used your application from your initial term of employment was in some way unfair or unlawful.  Frankly I don't see why it makes any difference.  Do you have a criminal background?  Does this fact appear in your initial (and only) application?  Was your initial (and only) application incomplete, incorrect, dishonest or false?  They can fire you because they don't like the way you drive, or the car you drive or because you are left handed or because you part your hair on the wrong side!  Likewise you can quit for any reason at all even if they treat you fair and pay you well.  

Remember they can fire you for any reason at all, even an unfair reason or for an untrue rumor or allegation unless you were fired for a reason that is protected by civil rights law, by an employment contract, or something similar.  

With the exceptions listed above, the only thing you can do for an unfair firing is to apply for unemployment compensation.  If your employer does not have a good reason to have fired you, then you should be able to collect.  

However, I do not take unemployment compensation cases so I wish you the best but I cannot help you any further.  

 

FAQ's About Cost of Services -What will your services cost?  The second most frequently asked question is - How quickly can the matter be handled?  Attorney Durant certainly understands the economic and time concerns of those seeking his services.  There are many factors that determine the cost and amount of time it will take.  Here are some:

 
Q&A's - FAQ's About Cost of Services - Click Here

 

From an out-of-town client:  I need to write a will right away.  Are you willing to help?  What is the cost?

Sure I am willing to help.  My guess is the cost would be about $300.00 to $350.00.  The more we can do by email the better and the less office time would have to be used.  You would have to come to my office to sign your will though.  

 
My husband is deceased and I am selling our property:  My husband died 3 years ago.  I am selling property which is in both our names.  I have a clear deed, death certificate and all taxes are up-to-date.  I have a buyer and agreed upon price of $25K for the property.  I want to do this now.  What would your fee be to complete all legal documents to transfer property ownership to the buyer?

My best estimate for attorney's fees to represent you as the seller in this type of matter (assuming no title issues to correct, etc) would be $250.00.  If I am also asked to represent the buyer(s) and you consent, then depending on whether they want me to do a title search or not, my attorney's fees would be in the range of $250.00-500.00 for them.  Out of pocket expenses required to record the deed would be additional.  Seller and buyer usually split the transfer taxes (1% of sale price payable by each side).  
 
Cost of elder law services:  Can you provide an estimate on the cost of providing elder law services?  My mother is in her 80's and a resident of a nursing home.  

As you might suspect, the cost of providing elder law services depends.  It depends upon a combination of the required attorney time, items desired to be dealt with and the chosen plan.  I suggest that you make an appointment and plan to spend a minimum of one hour discussing options with me.  My present hourly rate is $250.00.  So the cost of that initial conference would be $250.00.  Whether a Trust or gifting plan would be appropriate will depend on such things as your mother's presumptive life expectancy, her income, her assets, her existing estate plan, the makeup and needs of her family, existing documents and also what steps have already been taken on her behalf to protect assets for the family.  

I hope this response has been helpful.  I look forward to hearing from you soon.  
 
Buying Second Home:  I am buying a second home in Treasure Lake and need an attorney to represent me and read over the documents.  Please advise estimated fees.  

It is hard to estimate the fees when we are unsure as of the details of your request.  Do you need a title search completed?  Do you need me to conduct the closing?  Is this a cash purchase or through a lender?  Does the bank require title insurance?  A basic estimate for a typical closing is between $650-$850 but it could be more or less depending on what is required.  Then there are deed preparation (usually paid by seller), filing costs, title insurance, title search, child & spousal support certifications, etc.  

I hope this answers your main question.  Please feel free to contact this office should you have any other questions.  
 
Cost of representation at a closing:  My husband and I are buying a house and were wondering if you could give us an idea of how much you would charge to represent us for a closing.  

My ball park estimate is about 1% of the purchase price which would include a title search and other typical document preparation.  
 
Cost of consultation:  We have some very strange things showing up regarding the home we bought in July of 2006.  There are things coming up about the deed, the mortgage loan (the lender is being investigated for possible fraud), there are a lot of questions regarding the sales contract.  Please help us.  

You don't say whether things "showing up" about your home are physical, legal or construction issues.  I would need to have you call to make an appointment for you and/or your husband to come in and discuss your concerns.  I would handle that on an hourly basis with payment expected on the day of the appointment.  At present my hourly fee is $250.00 and I anticipate we will likely need an hour.  
 
Grandmother's Estate:  I need help with my deceased Grandmother's estate.  Want to make sure things are done right.  What it will cost?

A large part of my practice is in estate matters and proceedings.  I would think that it would not take me long to give you an overview of the law as it applies in your particular situation.  If you want me to do more, the fees for any such efforts can be discussed at the time of when disclosure is made to me of the scope of work.  
 
When time is of the essence:  I would like to purchase an unimproved piece of land located in Clearfield County from my former wife ASAP.  It is the same parcel of land I am leasing from her.  I live in NY and she lives in CA.  What do we need to do, how quickly can we do it and what will it cost?

I can do the job for you.  It would not take much to do a deed from your ex to you.  If you want me to do a title search it would take longer (a few weeks or so) and cost more.  The cost would be dependent upon the work required and the amount you are paying for the property or its fair market value.  The values translate into risk for the title certifier or the insurance company if you want title insurance.  I will need to have a copy of the deed or the reference number of where and when it was recorded and the particulars as to how much is being paid and the names and addresses of the parties.  If your ex is now remarried, I will need to have her husband also sign to give you the best title and avoid any problems from him later (even if his name is not presently on the deed).  
 
Cost to Start a business:  I am a college student originally from central Pennsylvania and am currently enrolled in a Entrepreneurship class.  I am wondering if I would be able to get a general quote for the cost of your services to start a business in Centre County.  

I would be pleased to represent you as needed in your efforts to start a business in Centre County.  Since I do not know exactly how my services will be needed or used I cannot provide a fee quote.  My fees for matters when fees are not otherwise agreed in advance are presently $250.00 per hour.  If you have a specific task for me I will be pleased to give you an estimate.  
 
Can you estimate the cost for a complex trust?  Could you please give me a quote for creating an irrevocable Medicaid Asset Protection Trust? We will also have approximately 3 real estate deeds to include with the investment/liquid assets.  

I am unable to provide accurate quotes based upon email inquiries such as this one.  Because each person's situation is so unique, the best way to estimate a price is to come in and speak with me in person.  Usually a consultation of between one half to one hour is required before any meaningful direction and or estimates for further work are possible.  On some occasions the initial interview reveals that the best legal course is not at all what the party was originally seeking when they made the appointment.  

Our office does do Elder Law and Guardianship work as well as Estates and Estate planning all of which may relate in some way to the concept of an irrevocable Medicaid asset protection trust.  If you would like to set up an initial consultation to review your needs and obtain options, please call and ask to speak to Kimberly at 814-765-1711.  Thank you for contacting our office.  

 

Contact Attorney Durant online or call 814-765-1711 (toll-free: 800-464-1268) to discuss your specific legal concerns.  The office is open Monday to Friday from 8:30 am to 5 pm, and located diagonally across the street from the Clearfield Post Office.  Evening and weekend appointments are available upon request.  Home, hospital and visits to business sites by arrangement when circumstances necessitate.