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Stephen Wills Murphy

Stephen Murphy’s Answers

77 total

  • What if the other owner of the property is not upkeeping with the taxes etc. what can i do

    my husband die leaving no will and mystepson have not been upkeeping his share of taxes and other bills what can i do

    Stephen’s Answer

    In Virginia, if your husband died with no Will and he owned the real property in his own name, then the property would have passed to you and your stepson (and other stepchildren). You each own an interest in the house as tenants in common.

    Each co-owner of the house has to pay their proportionate share of the costs of maintaining the house. So you can require him to contribute his share.

    But unfortunately, the taxing authorities will not consider that to be an excuse. You will have to pay the entire amount, or risk having a tax lien on the property.

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  • My step mom refuses to give me any of my deceased fathers things can you help?

    My father told me, on his death bed almost 3 months ago, that I could have whatever I wanted of his things right in front of my step mom and other family members. Now almost 3 months later she has constantly refused to let me come and go through h...

    Stephen’s Answer

    I concur with the other responses.

    I would just add that you might have some legal recourse here. It sounds like you will be entitled to something of your father's property. If your father did not have a Will, then you will be entitled to a portion of his property -- but his wife (your stepmother) also is entitled to a portion. And if you are entitled to a share, then you can discuss with his executor or administrator to satisfy your portion through receiving those items of personal property.

    I practice in Charlottesville, so please feel free to call my office to discuss this, at (434) 825-3388. I will not charge for this consultation, and I am happy to help any way that I can.

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  • Can my 77 year old mom protect her home from being subjected to medicaid for long-term care in Washington State?

    My mother is in excellent health and most likely has at least 10 years before she will need long-term care. She wants to give her condo (worth ~ $200K which she owns - no mortgage) to her children. If she puts the house in her children's names wel...

    Stephen’s Answer

    Mr. Friedman has given you some excellent thoughts, but I would add that in some states, the 5-year window that he was talking about is not a total shield. In Virginia, there is some authority that even if a gift was made outside of the 5-year window, that gift can still be counted as an asset if it was made with the intent to avoid Medicaid.

    There is no easy fix here, but there are ways to minimize risk of those assets. Contact a local elder lawyer for a review of your case, and see what he or she would charge.

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  • My mom is on medicaid, so what are her options if she receives an inheritance?

    My grandparents house will be sold eventually. My mom will receive her share which will be divided equally among herself and her four siblings. Our understanding is that she will dropped from medicaid the first month she has the money. But if it i...

    Stephen’s Answer

    Two issues: first, if your mother already owns a part of the house, then that should be a countable asset that would disqualify her from Medicaid.

    Second, there are ways to set up a trust for her. If it is her own money, she can put it into a self-settled special needs trust -- you can read about that here,

    And if it is someone else's money, they can put it into a third-party special needs trust. I am not familiar with any requirement that this only be available for a disabled child, but there might be some aspect of Arizona law that comes into play here.

    But all of this will depend on Arizona law. With these ideas in mind, contact a good Arizona attorney. It is worth paying a reasonable amount for an attorney to guide your mother through this, so she does not risk losing her benefits, and so she can make use of her inheritance without jeopardizing the inheritance or her Medicaid, if possible.

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  • My father named me as his personal representative on his will . Can i pay a lawyer out of the estate?

    I have been to probate court and they said i should hire a lawyer .

    Stephen’s Answer

    Obviously, fees are an important issue for you. You should call and ask attorneys when they would expect their fees. Some lawyers ask that the client pay them their fees upfront, and then the client is reimbursed for those fees. Some other lawyers wait until after the process is over, and they are paid directly as part of the closing of the estate.

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  • Is there any reason to involve an attorney in this divorce process if we agree on everything?

    I'm divorcing my spouse. We've created a Marital Separation Agreement and completely agree on the terms, which include division of assets, child custody and support, and alimony. We have no equity in our home and she is giving the real estate to...

    Stephen’s Answer

    Some attorneys will do a review of a settlement agreement and the paperwork for a flat fee. That might help you to manage your expectations about how much this will cost.

    You should call some local attorneys to see what their fee schedule might be. If you have an attorney review the paperwork for you, that attorney will at least make sure that you are not giving away some rights you are not aware of, and the attorney will also make sure that the divorce paperwork is properly filed and goes through the first time, instead of being kicked back by the Court!

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  • My aunt is in the hospital in Washington DC and unable to sign a POA. How do we get one?

    My aunt, 91 years of age with no living will is hospitalized. She had a heart attack and major stroke which parallelized her left side and is unable to speak or write. On the hospital records, in case of emergency contact is her 89 year old brothe...

    Stephen’s Answer

    You should note the different types of documents here. A "living will" is a document that sets out the person's desires for health care in the event that they are incapacitated,and gives another person the ability to make those decisions for you. A "power of attorney" is a document that gives another person the ability to manage financial affairs.

    You say the in case of emergency contact is your aunt's brother. I imagine that your aunt has not made a POA that names him as the decisionmaker? If she has already done that, then you can look at the POA instrument and DC law to determine whether an agent has the ability to delegate those decisionmaking abilities to another person.

    I suggest you post this again in Washington, DC or contact an attorney who knows DC law well.

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  • Florida Irrevocable trust what is legally required to dissolve the trust corpus when all parties are in agreement?

    Beneficiary for income has signed a disclaimer for future income All beneficiaries for equal shares of the corpus agree to dissolve the trust

    Stephen’s Answer

    You need to contact a Florida attorney. If you make a misstep here, then you have liability for any acts that are done under the trust. For example, a beneficiary could later claim that you improperly terminated the trust, and sue you for it. If you work with a good attorney, you will be able to move forward with confidence and with protection from liability.

    I am not licensed to practice in Florida. But generally, Florida law provides various means of terminating a trust. Some of these means can be done with Court approval, and some can be done without Court approval. Have a look at the Florida statutes,

    These are a good start. But when you are working with trusts, you really should hire an attorney.

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  • My mother just passed away in Viriginia. I have lived in her home for the past 9 years. How long can I stay in the house?

    Mom did not have a will. The home has not been paid off. Can I take over the mortgage? If not, does it go into foreclosure? What should I do at this point? I have one sibling that would like for me and my family to stay in the house.

    Stephen’s Answer

    I agree with the above answers. As for the foreclosure, you should consult with an attorney about the best time to contact the mortgage company. In my experience, the mortgage company will sometimes send a letter the last address attempting to open up discussions about who will take over the mortgage. Keep an eye out for that type of letter. But you should also meet with an attorney to develop a proactive plan to deal with both your siblings and the mortgage company.

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  • I want to Divorce, My husband live in Florida and I live in Virginia.

    We are separated for more that a year. ( I run away and hide ) now i want to divorce and want to know process time and cost. I am looking for a lawyer who can help me with my case. but want to do it fast.

    Stephen’s Answer

    I agree with the other responses -- you will need to satisfy the requirements for residency and domicile in Virginia. Depending on the facts, you may be able to bring this action in Virginia, or you may have to bring the action in Florida.

    As for the time frame, once you have a separation agreement with your husband, then you can file for divorce and get an order without a hearing.

    I regularly practice in Northern Virginia. Give my office a call at (434) 296-7138 or email me at

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