September 5

Court Must Open Medicaid Recipient’s Estate Before Ruling on Validity of Estate Recovery Claim

A Missouri appeals court reverses a lower court’s decision to deny the state’s Medicaid recovery claim against a Medicaid recipient’s estate because the court was prohibited from ruling on the validity of the claim at the initial hearing to open the estate. Estate of Tiefenbrunn (Mo. Ct. App., No. SD34045, April 6, 2016).

Shirley Tiefenbrunn executed a beneficiary deed that left her house to her daughter and son-in-law. Ms. Tiefenbrunn began receiving Medicaid benefits, and the state filed a lien on the property. After Ms. Tiefenbrunn died, the state filed a release of the lien, stating that Ms. Tiefenbrunn no longer owned the property.

A year after Ms. Tiefenbrunn died, the state filed a petition to open Ms. Tiefenbrunn’s estate and to recover Medicaid benefits paid on her behalf. Ms. Tiefenbrunn’s daughter opposed the petition, arguing that the release of the lien waived the state’s claim. The trial court entered judgment denying the state’s claim. The state appealed.

The Missouri Court of Appeals reverses, holding that the trial court did not have discretion to deny the state’s petition. According to the court, when an interested party timely files a petition to open the estate, the trial court is required to grant the petition and is prohibited from determining the validity of the claim at the initial hearing.

For the full text of this decision, go to:

September 2

Mass. Court Bridles at Allegations in Request for Reconsideration in Irrevocable Trust Case

In a strongly worded response to a Medicaid applicant’s request for reconsideration of an unsuccessful appeal involving an irrevocable trust, a Massachusetts trial court strikes the applicant’s pleadings after it takes great exception to the tone of the argument. Daley v. Sudders (Mass.Super.Ct., No.15-CV-0188-D, March 28, 2016).

James and Mary Daley created an irrevocable trust. They conveyed their interest in their condominium to the trust, but retained a life estate in the property. Seven years later, the state denied Mr. Daley Medicaid benefits after determining that the trust was an available asset. The Massachusetts Superior Court upheld the state’s decision.

Mr. Daley’s estate filed a motion for reconsideration, claiming that the government’s attorney knowingly made false statements of law, selectively quoted Medicaid regulations and failed to disclose adverse agency decisions to the court, among other complaints. In order to succeed, the estate needed to prove “fraud, misrepresentation or other misconduct of an adverse party.”

The Massachusetts Superior Court strikes the estate’s request, stating that “[p]ost-decisional posturing and repugnant personal attacks will not be tolerated nor are they the proper subject of a motion for reconsideration. . . Neither professionalism nor our judicial system can countenance plaintiff attorney’s conduct in this case, behavior that cries out for an appropriate judicial response. Such conduct is unworthy of attorneys and disserves their clients.” The court writes that in striking the estate’s pleadings, it is granting the estate’s wish for “any such other and further relief as is just and equitable.”

To read the court’s decision, click here.