In Pennsylvania, does a Barbara  named in a will acquire ownership of the decedent’s real property on the date of
the decedent’s death? If not, at what point does ownership pass to the Barbara?
In Pennsylvania, ownership of the decedent’s real property passes at death to the
Barbara, subject to the powers granted to the executor. In her capacity as the estate’s
executrix, Barbara elected not to use two parcels of real property to satisfy the
estate’s debts – a power granted to her by the will. Accordingly, Barbara, who is
also the sole beneficiary of the estate, acquired ownership of at least two parcels
of real property on December 19, 2012, the date of the decedent’s death.
On February 19, 1999, John, Jr. named Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipient
Barbara SSN~ as both the executrix (personal representative) and sole beneficiary
of his estate in a validly executed will. John explicitly outlined the sequential
distribution of his estate’s assets in the will. First, he directed that upon his
death, the assets of his estate be used to pay “the expenses of my last illness, my
just debt, [and] funeral and administrative expenses.” Second, John’s will devised
“all the rest, residue, and remainder of [his] estate, real, personal and mixed, of
whatsoever character and wheresoever situate[d]” to Barbara “to be hers absolutely.”
John died on December 19, 2012. Additional information is needed to determine the
total assets of John’s estate as of December 19, 2012.  However, it is known that the estate includes at least three pieces of real property.
Barbara sold two of these properties, which are collectively valued at $79,468.20,
to her children for a total of $2.00. Property #1 (206 Penn Manor Road) has a fair
market value of $23,814.00. Barbara transferred Property #1 to her daughter for one
dollar on May 22, 2013. Property #2 (177 Archway Drive) has a fair market value of
$55,564.20. Barbara transferred this property to her son on April 24, 2013, for one
dollar. There is no information to indicate that Barbara used either Property #1 or
#2 as her principal place of residence. Barbara’s children were not named as Barbaras
in John’s will.
Barbara provided the agency with a handwritten list of the estate’s debts totaling
$75,234.97. Although the fair market value of Property #1 and #2 exceed the estate’s
debts, Barbara did not use this property to satisfy the estate’s outstanding debt.
She did indicate, however, her intent to sell Property #3 to satisfy the estate’s
debts. The estate is currently in probate, and has not yet been settled or closed.
In Pennsylvania, legal title to an individual’s real estate “shall pass at his death
to his heirs or Barbaras, subject, however, to all the powers granted to the personal
representative by this code and lawfully by the will[.]” 20 Pa. C.S.A. § 301(b). See
also In re Holbrook’s Estate, 1 Pa. D. 259 (Pa. Orph. 1889) (“Real property is land,
and, generally whatever is erected or growing upon, or affixed to land, also rights
issuing out of, annexed to and exercisable within or about the same. Such property
has the quality of passing, on the death of the owner, to the heir, and not the executor.”);
Jones v. LaSalle Nat'l Bank (In re Jones), 2004 WL 1924888 (Bankr. E.D.Pa. Jul. 27,
2004) (“under Pennsylvania law, title to real property passed to [the decedent’s]
heirs immediately upon his death”); Lavelle v. M&T Mortg. Corp., 2006 WL 2346320,
*4 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 11, 2006) (“legal title to a decedent’s real estate ‘shall pass
at his death to his heirs or Barbaras, subject, however, to all the powers granted
to the personal representative by the code and lawfully by the will”).
Here, ownership of all three properties passed to Barbara as the sole Barbara on December 19,
2012 – the date of John’s death. This ownership, however, was subject to her power
as the estate’s personal representative. Because the will authorized Barbara in her
capacity as personal representative to pay the estate’s debts, she could elect to
liquidate any of the real property if necessary to pay outstanding debts. However,
Barbara elected not to use Property #1 and Property #2 (collectively valued at $79,468.20)
to satisfy the estate’s $75,234.47 debt. Accordingly, she acquired unencumbered ownership
of Property #1 and Property #2 at the time of John’s death. 
A secondary issue exists because Barbara subsequently transferred Property #1 and
Property #2 for $2.00 -- $79,466.20 below fair market value. These transfers were
not completed in accordance with the regulations. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.1240 (outlining
the procedures to dispose of resources). “If an individual fails to dispose of the
resources as prescribed in . . . this section, regardless of the efforts he or she
makes to dispose of them, the resources will be counted at their current market value
and the individual will be ineligible due to excess resources.” 20 C.F.R. § 416.1240(c).
“An individual (or eligible spouse) who gives away or sells a nonexcluded resource
for less than fair market value for the purpose of establishing SSI or Medicaid eligibility
will be charged with the difference between the fair market value of the resource
and the amount of compensation received.” 20 C.F.R. § 416.4216(a).  An investigation into why Barbara transferred these properties for such a minimal
amount may be appropriate.
We conclude that Barbara acquired ownership of Property #1 and Property #2 on December
12, 2012. 
Acting Regional Chief Counsel,
Assistant Regional Counsel