Over more than 30 years of practicing law, James Miscavage has handled all aspects of estate law. Call for your free consultation appointment today. 

Compassionate Expertise Prioritizing Your Interests

  • Wills / power of attorney / medical power of attorney / living will
  • Probate and orphan's court litigation
  • Trusts / minor's trusts / revocable trusts
  • Estate planning
  • Protecting claims against an estate
  • Bankrupt estates
  • Divorce issues arising in an estate setting

Comprehensive Legal Support to Help You Plan Your Estate Better

Probate proceedings are initiated by a person named as Executor in a will appearing before one of the deputies at the Register of Wills. If no will exists, there's a method of picking an administrator on the estate. Certain people have certain preferences and those are set forth in a statute.

The reason for the issuance of letters for probate is to allow a person to become empowered to handle issues that remain unresolved after the death of an individual. The executor typically is high on the list of people who get paid. 

The statute is arranged to allow financial matters to be resolved in a proper manner and for chaos not to occur. 

James E. Miscavage, Attorney at Law has been involved in a variety of orphan's court probate related matters such as:
  • Lost wills
  • Holographic wills
  • Determining what documents actually constitute a will
  • Seeking the removal of an administrator or executor
  • Will contests
  • Death while a divorce is pending
  • General probate resolution
  • Distribution of assets
  • Litigating against claims
  • Filing claims against an estate for the payment of debts
  • Preparing inheritance tax returns
  • Other legal documents to accomplish probate

In addition, the preparation of a will involves basic estate planning. Most basic estate planning can be accomplished during an initial consultation to prepare a will and more complicated planning might involve more meetings and additional charges.

As a service to encourage everyone to have a will, I have always offered an inexpensive will package for a husband and wife that includes wills, general powers of attorney, and medical power with living will for $275.00. For a single individual, the will package is $225.00 for all three documents. 

Protect your assets and your family with estate planning services from James E. Miscavage, Attorney at Law. Call our office at 412-653-5711 to schedule your FREE first consultation
Medicaid issues

Take an Informed Decision for Your Nursing Home and Medicaid Issues

In Pennsylvania, the average nursing home cost determined for Medicaid purposes is $302 or $110,230 per year. Certainly, many if not most, couples in Pennsylvania can afford such expenses. Note: these numbers change every year and must be updated to determine if changes in amounts or the law have occurred. 

Medical assistance or Medicaid provides long-term health care that can be used to pay these charges under certain situations. 

Where you have a husband and wife and the husband must be institutionalized, the wife would be deemed the community spouse.

In determining eligibility, two basic factors must be taken into consideration:
  • Certain resources are exempt. In Pennsylvania, an IRA in the name of wife would be exempt. A house in joint names would be exempt. A prepaid funeral for either spouse’s funeral would be exempt
  • Other resources might be non-exempt. For example, a wife can keep one-half (1/2) up to a minimum of $23,845 up to a maximum of one-half (1/2) non-exempt resources up to a maximum of $119,220
For example, if a husband or wife has a $60,000 CD, the wife could keep $30,000 as a non-exempt resource. The other $30,000 would have to go toward the expense of care of the husband.

Another example would be where there was a $500,000 brokerage account. Under this situation, one-half (1/2) up to the maximum of $119, 220 could be kept by the wife. The balance would need to be spent down for the expense of care of the husband.

All of the above figures are inflation adjusted each year. The above figures would be good for 2016, given the low rate of inflation, you can assume these numbers would apply into the near future.

Gifting by either of the spouses:

Gift giving by either of the spouses can affect eligibility of a spouse who needs to be institutionalized. For example, let us assume husband and wife have a $40,000 CD and take the CD and give it to their son, thinking he'll protect the money from the nursing home. Any such gift which must be reported!

It would cost the institutionalized spouse $40,000 divided by $302, 132 days of ineligibility for medical assistance.

Maintenance allowance:

What income can a spouse, who's not institutionalized, be assured of retaining to care for herself? The monthly minimum maintenance allowance is $1,991 per month or $23,892 per year. 

If that monthly amount of $1,991 is made up of social security and pension and the excess funds would need to be used to pay towards care.

There're times when the maximum amount can be exceeded in certain hardship situations. For example, maybe one of the spouses who is not institutionalized has expenses that cannot be adjusted or modified.

Take a Look at Special Needs Trust Allowable Distribution Summary


More than twenty ($20.00) in cash cannot be distributed to the beneficiary, nor may disbursements be made to third parties for food or shelter, without loss or reduction of SSI benefits. Trust funds may be spent on many items which are not food or shelter.

Permissible distributions that'll not affect SSI benefits:
  • Home purchase
  • Home improvement
  • Modification of residence for handicapped use
  • Educational expenses - tuition, books, and supplies
  • Medical expenses
  • Medical services
  • Social services
  • Health insurance premiums
  • Entertainment expenses - books and magazines, movie or concert tickets, sporting events, audio/video equipment
  • Vacation travel and in some instances, transportation expenses, including purchase and maintenance of cars, bus passes, airline tickets, etc.
  • Household goods and other items of personal property of reasonable value
  • Telephone expenses, cable TV, and other “communication” expenses
  • Dental care, physical therapy, massages, support services, and other medical costs not covered by any benefit programs
  • Personal care services
  • Durable medical equipment such as wheelchairs
Trust Distributions which will reduce SSI benefits:
  • Shelter expenses (mortgage payments, real property taxes, heating and cooling bills, electricity, water, sewage, garbage collection)
  • Groceries or meals
  • Cash for any purpose (beyond the $20 SSI monthly allowance)
  • There are always exceptions
Call us to schedule a FREE initial consultation to plan your estate.
We're a member of the County Bar Association.
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