What to do when Medicaid is threatening a lien on property? What can Medicaid do? What can you do? What if the estate property is not worth enough to cover the lien? This week’s question for Georgia probate lawyer Erik Broel comes from Marietta, Georgia.
First, some background. Medicaid is a state run and (mostly) federally funded program that provides (among other things) funding for skilled nursing care for those who qualify for the program. When the recipient of Medicaid funding dies, federal regulations require that the state attempt to collect the amounts paid on behalf of the patient from the patient’s estate. This process is called estate recovery.
The Georgia Medicaid estate recovery unit pursues estate recovery for all Georgia probate estates that are worth more than $25,000.00. Georgia probate law gives Medicaid the right to place a lien on all real estate owned by the deceased patient at the time of death. If the lien is not satisfied, then Medicaid will have the right to sell the property in the same manner as the county tax commissioner would for unpaid property taxes – auction at the courthouse steps.
Even though Medicaid has some strong rights, you are not helpless. The way you communicate and negotiate with the estate recovery office at Medicaid can make a big difference in the result. If done properly, Medicaid claims can be significantly reduced through negotiation. In addition, there are a few hoops that Medicaid must jump through in order to legally assert their lien rights. For example, Medicaid must provide obtain the written consent of the patient prior to funding any care. That consent must notify the patient that Medicaid will seek to recover the cost of the care provided from the patient’s estate. If Medicaid did not do that, then Medicaid may not legally be able to take any action against the estate.
If the value of Medicaid’s claim far exceeds the value of the property in the estate, then you may not want to do anything with the estate, and simply allow Medicaid estate recovery to run its course. If that happens, the home will eventually be sold. Depending on how much equity is in the home, though, it may be worth it to find out if Medicaid obtained informed consent. If Medicaid did not, you may be in a position to easily void their lien and keep the equity in the home for the heirs of the estate or beneficiaries of the will.
Remember – whatever you decide to do – if you are in possession of an original will, Georgia probate law requires that you turn it over to the Probate Court, even if you do not intend to open the estate. If there is no will, and you decide to walk away from the situation, then you do not need to do anything.
Disclaimer: The information above is provided for general information only and should not be considered legal advice. Our probate lawyers provide legal advice to our clients after talking about the specific circumstances of the client’s situation. Our law firm cannot give you legal advice unless we understand your situation by talking with you. Please contact our law office to receive specific information about your situation.
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