jeannegibbs Asked August 2011

How does Medicaid Estate Recovery work when the surviving spouse owned the home jointly?

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My husband receives Medicaid benefits. I understand and approve (not that it matters) the concept that the state can recover money they've provided from the sale of the home after the recipient dies. I am 19 years younger than my husband and expect to outlive him. I've been told that I can continue to live in the house until I die, and the state can step in then. Fair enough. But what if I don't want to/can't live in the house the rest of my life? If I sell it to move to AL, for example, can the state recover their money out of the sale? Do I get any share of the equity? (We are in Minnesota.)

(Sometimes I wish we were just "living in sin" -- marriage seems to have financial disadvantages!)

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EXPERT Carol Bradley Bursack Aug 2011
You'd have to ask the MN Medicaid people directly to be sure (states differ) but I think if you sell this house, they can step in. It seems unfair with you being so much younger, but that would most likely be the case. As I say, to be sure, you should check with MN Medicaid, or else an elder law attorney who could perhaps help you find a different solution.
I chuckled about your "living in sin" agreement - many older couples are just having commitment ceremonies, which are not "legal", therefore they don't run into these issues. It's complicated even then, though, because if your husband had wanted to leave the house to you, you'd still have the same lien against it.
Good luck,
Carol
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EXPERT Ralph Robbins Aug 2011
It literally took me less than a minute to find this.

http://www.dhs.state.mn.us/main/groups/publications/documents/pub/dhs16_151505.pdf

Hope it helps!
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igloo572 Aug 2011
JG - with Medicaid being managed by each of the state's, then each state's program get's it's own special spin and laws on how probate is done. I'm most familiar with LA,TX and NM. None those states have done very much with the MERP program - their recovery rates are super low so far. But IMHO that will be changing as the states have shortfalls in revenue and contract MERP out to aggressive recovery firms.

That being said, what does MN say for MERP and surviving spouse? For TX if there is living in the home: a surviving spouse, a disabled child of any age, a business based at the home or if taking the home would place anyone living there on the state teat or if the cost to do thru MERP is not finiancially viable then MERP doesn't happen. I've been trying to find out what the $$ trigger is for MERP to happen. It seems to be if the "recovery" would be over 100K. Not the value of the home but what MERP can expect to net after other claims are paid, realtors and other real estate costs are paid. What MERP does if the executrix takes their time to file probate or drags probate out should be interesting to see.

My mom still has her home, she's in LTC on Medicaid as of Jan of this year after being in IL for a couple of years. Now I am keeping track of ALL the expenses on her home that I have paid...everything from property taxes, yard work, utilties, insurance, cable from Jan of this year plus the $$ spent on a caregiver at her IL that kept her from going into the LTC (and off of Medicaid) in the years prior. When she dies, I will send a response letter (to the MERP letter I get) that I will be filing a claim against her estate in probate for all those expenses. This is required to be done within a set amount of time (30 days). Based on the first 6 mo of this year,
I'm looking at spending 6 - 8K a year on the house. Every penny will be filed as a claim in probate. That claim will be paid first & before MERP.

Now depending on your state, keeping track of expenses related to the home might be something you need to do. But papertrails can be so overwhelming.
Not everybody can get into doing it for the long-haul or $ history build required.

Regarding your SS, I'm a somewhat younger spouse too & we have a 13 yr old, although my DH is in good health and working. What we are mulling over is at which age & rate to do SS. You might want to figure out what the payment would be based on your work at 62 vs getting it based on his. I assume you have been married for 10+ years - you need that to get his SS benefit. If you were married before for at least 10 years and the old DH has a higher SS pay out, you can get it based on DH # 1 rather than DH # 2 (really truly)! www.retirement-income.net is a good site for information on SS and other financial stuff.

Sounds like you have a pretty filled plate, stay positive!
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jeannegibbs Aug 2011
Yes, I could look into that, and maybe I will some day. The likelihood of my having any estate to preserve is pretty small, as all of our kids have been forewarned. Considering the assets we went through before hubby got on Medicaid, I'll be lucky if I don't wind up in subsidized senior housing. Between taking care of my husband with dementia, working full time to support us, dealing with my bipolar brother, and my own health issues, it is not easy to find time for seminars, free or otherwise. But you are right, I should. I should also try to figure out whether to start collecting social security this year or wait. Sigh. Too many shoulds. Not enough brain cells.
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jeannegibbs Aug 2011
Thank you for that minute, Ralph. I had searched but kept coming up with legal precendent cases that I couldn't follow. If I read this document correctly, If my husband dies first I can continue to live in the house or sell it. After my death the county can file a claim aginst my estate (minus any assets acquired after my husband's death) for the amount of Medicaid my husband received. If I have foolishly squandered the proceeds of the original house sale on assisted living and medications and food, etc., then I guess Medicaid is out of luck. On the other hand, if I'm using the house money they are not providing me with the Medicaid benefits I'd need if I were destitute, so I guess it would be kind of a wash. :)
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darlene57 Jun 2015
i am having trouble finding out who to call to see how much my mother may owe to Estate rocovery.. I keep asking her where is the contract you signed and agreed to when dad went in and you had to have sighned something as they dont make a verbal agreement. We can find nothing. We live in the state of washington and he died in oct of 1997 in Washington. He was not awarded his letter of coverage until Feb of 97. does anyone know how much care cost back then and how much in ust the 9 months would be owed? mom in law was making payment to nursing home long after he died, but is still insistant on saying she owes.. What would she owe? we saw a forwarded balance of 879, like a year after he died. there was so much going on i think she is confused. She as also making payments every month to the nursing home as she made more money due to being legally blind and husband eventually died from complications of diabetes.. he was given money thru SSI/ medicaid award being catagorically needy. How can I find out how much if any is is owed and save house for us to inherit, as we have been living with her for 11 years.. Thanks..this again was in 1997.is there a statute of limitations in washington state if it has been almost 20 years and we don't even know if nursing home filed a lien, but mom is convinced with no evidence. Can we contact the nursing home and find out??
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igloo572 Jun 2015
Darlene - well first of all, it's interesting re-reading posts from 2011!
Secondly if you are asking about IF the MERP /medicaid estate recovery program can go after the estate of an individual who was on Medicaid in the 1990's, probably not. The statute of limitations on debt would be way, way, way over as it's 18 years. But ultimately It would dependent on your states laws.

For TX - I try to keep up as my mom died this year and I am just starting with MERP & probate - for those on medicaid programs who applied before March, 2006, MERP cannot be done. The rules for Medicaid had major changes from the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. After DRA an "acknowledgement of participation" statement is now within the TX medicaid application & on state website of programs. TX signed DRA in March, 2006, so only applications done after that can get estate recovery.

Also you should be able to see if the property has any liens or judgements against it by looking at courthouse records on the property. Most counties have all this on- line to search for free.
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darlene57 Jun 2015
thank you igloo 572.. We did look on line and the only thing I see is the one where the new roof was put on by city and contract was signed and we know we have enough to cover that. My understanding with ER is that as long as the widow ie spouse is still alive they can't put lien on till she dies and then we get the sorry for your loss.. BTW you owe the state $$$$! then they stick the lien on property.. my husband and his brother are working on making arrangement to see an elderslawyer but anything I can do before that time will be helpful. I know the change in law went into affect in 1993, but I will give medicaid of/medicare a call and see what else I can find on Washington ER laws. I did go on line and look but it is not talking about the 1990s.. noone seems to want to help me find out how much it actually cost then for nursing home care so I can determine if I have enough to cover all it if I choose to pay it off. thanks for the insight..
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darlene57 Jun 2015
update on darlene57 situation. I called olympia estate recovery office and there is no debt owed by my mother in law for her husband that died in 1997. they would have had to make a claim 2 years after death and there is no record of any kind for him and so since we have been living in the house for 11 years with her and it will keep her out of a facility for quite some time and it will protect us and the house from having a lien put on it. I am so glad I took the plunge and called th agencies directly!!.. thanks for all your help.. this was the best outcome I could ever ask for!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!have a great day
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