After death, how long does the government have to make claim of property to reimburse them for nursing home fees?


Mother passed 1/2/16. We are taking care of her place but would like to know how long before we know for sure if the government will try to take it or collect fees. Through medicaid and medicare her nursing home charges were covered for 3 years.

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If you would please post what atty. advises. We all learn from each other.
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Thank you. Will see an attorney in 2 weeks. You are very good at this
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To me, you have 3 different yet intertwined issues: 1. estate recovery due to Mom being on Medicaid; 2. family establishing heirship & 3. is it worthwhile to deal with this. You are going to need an atty & I'd suggest you find probate atty.'s who do both litigation & have experience with MERP and pick one. Your situation - since no valid will - will mean either probate in which judge names an administrator or perhaps a lineal heirship done. Which, well that is a ? for your Arkansas atty to discuss. I'd suggest you first determine just how soon your state requires probate or lineal to be opened within. So find this out as it will be a driver as to how soon you need to get moving.

Now you can do things to make an evaluation of your situation easier. You said its a house w/acreage maybe 200K? Well you need to find out exactly what the property is worth. Tax assessor places a value on the property & in states database. Medicaid / MERP has this figure. BUT assessor value may be whack. Like for my mom's estate, the house - in historic district - has rebuilds in adjacent areas, so inflates assessor values; but house has major foundation issues, not renovated etc. & is worth under assessor figure. I have gotten property inspected, a residential structural engineers report & an appraisal done; all 3 done by licensed professionals with some sort of stamp or state registration. Comps done by Realtors are nice but not enterable. These 3 provide solid evaluation of property which is entered into probate and approved by judge. Upside is lowers value of recoverable estate BUT downside property info are public record & you have to find vendors & be there to do these things & front all cost$….

You need to determine if assessor value valid & if not determine if it is worth doing things to establish correct value.

About property costs. Look at your states medicaid program to see how Ark deals with this. For my situation, house was empty (I live in another state), so all normal & routine property costs (insurance, taxes, maintenance, yard) was an exclusion to MERP & I provided documentation of each & every item. As your son lives there, costs may or may not be allowed. Again it's a ? for your atty to guide you on & deal with.

Nevertheless you kinda need to do a spreadsheet on costs paid in detail to give to your atty. as it could be a claim against the estate or perhaps used in negotiating with MERP. Again something to discuss with atty.

Oh about taxes & insurance, if you as DPOA did not kept up with these & property has no valid insurance or ever went to tax sale, expect that to be a reason why you will not be named administrator. Court can appoint an outside person as administrator and their fee$ & costs paid from the estate when settled. But ideally you as family would be named administrator.

Do you have any idea of the Medicaid tally?
If not, I'd suggest you go to the NH she was in & speak with billing to get an idea of $$ Medicaid paid. Average NH in US is 80/90K a year. So if mom was 3 years, it could be $ 250K paid by Medicaid. If mom's property is worth 200K and sold for 200K, the 50K balance is uncollectable by Medicaid. Its not your debt.

All this now gets to issue #3…is all this worthwhile to deal with?
Unless all heirs have exemptions, exclusions or significant costs due, property would more than likely need to be sold with proceeds paid to MERP to release the claim or lien. At 200K value if heirs want to keep it, well you all kinda have to buy it unless you all have exemptions, exclusions or costs to offset or probate favors family. An atty with experience in dealing with MERP is going to be real important in getting through all this. Its you & your sibling as heirs, right? really the both of you need to be involved in decision making in all this with the atty. Good luck!
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POA ends at death. You need to start a probate proceeding, with the help of an attorney. Don't try to do this alone, when there is no Will.
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Thank you for the information. It has 5 acres so we are guessing at $200,000. I have POA and have done all paperwork for 3 years. I also have her mailing address our home address instead of hers. Our son has been living in the house and taking care of the property. He pays me the cost of the taxes then I pay it each year. If something breaks he is responsible for repairs. She had no will and wasn't married. By the time the property got through probate giving it to her from previous owner, she had a stroke. We were going to take care of a will once it was in her name but then she wasn't of sound mind. POA paperwork was done prior to illness. SO she gets land she deserves to own from death of boyfriend then had strokes as all the paperwork is being finished. That's why I have POA all done but no will. In our state, Arkansas, I was told it would go to her kids. There are 2 of us.
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All states' medicaid program are required to do an attempt at estate recovery. It's referred to as MERP or MERS. Just how done will be very much interdependent on your states law & administrative code. Like some states actually place a lien on the property but others have it as a claim.

Another big factor is whether your state has turned MERP over to an outside contractor. If so, process will be much more proactive by the contractor.

Whomever was on file for getting correspondence from Medicaid and doing the annual renewal items is the person usually sent the initial MERP "intent to file a claim /lien" letter. It usually is the person who was the DPOA. If another family member other than you was DPOA, or did moms Medicaid paperwork....then they may get the " intent" letter. If correspondence was going to mom at the NH, it could be just sitting at the NH. In the letter it will state an overview of MERP and that there are exemptions, exclusions etc to recovery and a questionnaire to fill out and return. You have a set tight timeframe to provide what is requested and if not claim or lien seems be placed by default. If its a lien, it's going to be recorded at courthouse. BUT if its a claim it's lots more subterranean and shows up as a cloud on the title when you go to sell or transfer the property unless the seller has a release of the claim from the state or transfer was done within probate. There have been a few on this site who did not know about the claim /lien till the day of or a couple of days before the act of sale when the title company found it when doing clearance for the mortgage comany. It's a tough spot as even though no letter from MERP supposedly received by family, as the elder (or DPOA) applied for Medicaid (after your state accepted 2005 DRA requirements), it means they accept any & all terms set by the state to get Medicaid even from assets after death.

Your at month 4, so I'd bet a letter is sent before July. I'd suggest you Google to see if your state is doing MERP by state workers or has an outside contractor. If its state employees, it seems to move glacially. Also give some thought if mom could have prequalified for an exclusion to MERP. Like she was on Medicaid before DRA signed into by your state, or there is a low income or disabled heir, or a lady bird deed done on the house. Some states have a threshold on property value (based initally on tax assessor value) to do a recovery as a very low value house may not meet the cost-benefit analysis to persue.

If the property was empty during moms NH stay, look to see if your state allows for normal & usual property costs to be filed as an exclusion. This would be taxes, insurance, normal maintenance and you will need documentation on all. You may be asked to provide proof that you lived elsewhere too. These can be deducted from the Medicaid tally. If this is a very very low value home, the costs paid over 3 years could maybe take recovery into the no cost-benefit (to do recovery) zone. But it's up to family /heirs to get all documentation done, submitted, etc.

You could possibly have other exemptions, you just have to carefully go over the list and provide supporting documentation to get one done. Most common is the caregiver for 2 -3 years prior to admission into a NH, you may need to provide a letter from MD or SW as to services needed and provided with a timeline along with signature and state registration & licensing.

What I have been told is that MERP was envisioned to be done within probate as that is how estates are supposed to be settled. But as so many families just do not do probate, it can be done as a default against the assets of the estate of the elder as they are viewed as to have died intestate (as no probate opened, no executor named ). Add atop this that usually intestate death means all assets escheat to the state. So state can place its lien or claim.
If you don't file for exemptions, exclusions &/or open probate, state is probably going to assume heirs & family have no issue with recovery.

3 years of care.... Easily Over 6 figures paid. What's property value? If you don't mind me asking?
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Every state has different waiting periods for claims against the estate. If you think there is a lien on the property, check the records at county hall. This is something you really need an attorney for. Probate (settling the estate) is best done by the Executor with help from a lawyer's advice.
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