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POSSIBLE LOSS OF HOME TO GOVERNMENT FOR REPAYMENT OF BENEFITS LEADS TO ELDER ABUSE

The granddaughter of an elderly California resident was recently sentenced to jail for 17 years for elder abuse after her grandmother was discovered with open wounds and bed sores which resulted in the grandmother’s death due to the granddaughter’s (and daughter’s) neglect. The daughter (who has been indicted for second-degree murder) and granddaughter were living in their mother/grandmother’s home. They were concerned if the mother/grandmother received Medicaid benefits that the government would take the home to recover the benefit if paid.

Although the homestead is generally “noncountable” when applying for Medicaid, states can either have a claim or have a lien or claim (depends on the state) against the homestead to repay the government for benefits advanced.

A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing as this tragedy could have been possibly avoided in many ways if they had just sought legal advice. In Texas, there are many options to avoid a successful claim including (but not limited to):

  1. A deed in which the Medicaid applicant/recipient completely controlled the property for her life and went to the beneficiaries after her death. Both enhanced life estate (“Ladybird”) deeds and transfer on death deeds would avoid a successful claim by the state (although this exception is not available in most states);
  2. A deed to a child who is blind or disabled;
  3. Transfer the home to a child of the Medicaid applicant who took care of the applicant at the applicant’s home for two or more years that prevented the applicant from living in a nursing home;
  4. Transfer of the home into a trust for the sole benefit of a disabled individual under age 65;
  5. If the Medicaid applicant is survived by an unmarried adult child who lived in the home the year before the Medicaid recipient’s death (in Texas only – see our “Success Story of the Month” for more details);
  6. If the equity in the home is under $100,000 and the heir’s income is less than three times the federal poverty level (applicable under Texas law);
  7. If the home placed into certain types of trusts (subject to a look-back period).

There are other exceptions to Medicaid estate recovery in Texas (i.e., being survived by a spouse, being survived by a sibling who has lived in the home during the year before the applicant’s institutionalization and holds an equity interest, etc.)

If interested in learning more on how to protect your home, then you should attend one of our free “Estate Planning Essentials” workshops. Our next one is on Thursday, September 13, 2018 at 1:00 p.m. and the one after that will be Saturday, October 6, 2018 at 10:00 a.m. If interested in attending, call (214) 720-0102 or sign up online at www.dallaselderlawyer.com. Attendees are entitled to a free meeting ($1,000 value when considering both the workshop and meeting).

Click here to listen to Michael Cohen’s podcast on elder abuse!

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