Attorney Who Received Estate Assets Subject to Medicaid Lien Is Liable to State for Lien

A Massachusetts appeals court holds that evidence supports a trial court decision that an attorney who received assets from the estate of a Medicaid recipient is liable to the state for the Medicaid lien on the property. Costantino v. Lonardo (Mass. Ct. App., No. 18-P-587, July 23, 2019).

Attorney Robert Costantino provided legal services to John Lonardo and his mother, Michelina. He loaned Ms. Lonardo money in exchange for a one-half interest in her house. Later Ms. Lonardo began receiving MassHealth (Medicaid) benefits, and the state put a lien on her house. After Ms. Lonardo died, Mr. Costantino helped Mr. Lonardo begin administering her estate, but neither he nor Mr. Costantino notified the Medicaid agency of her death. Mr. Lonardo sued Mr. Costantino over Mr. Costantino's one-half ownership of the house. They settled the dispute, with Mr. Costantino paying Mr. Lonardo for the remaining half interest. Eventually, Mr. Costantino contacted the state Medicaid agency about the lien.

The state filed a claim against the estate. The trial court ruled that Mr. Lonardo and Mr. Costantino were jointly and severally liable to the state for the lien. Mr. Costantino appeals, arguing that he was unaware of the lien.

The Massachusetts Court of Appeal affirms, holding that the evidence supports the court's finding that Mr. Costantino knew about the lien and tried to evade it. According to the court, the trial court correctly ruled "that the property was the sole asset of the estate; that [Mr. Lonardo and Mr. Costantino] received estate assets from the sale of the property; that the payments to [Mr. Lonardo and Mr. Costantino] were subject to 'clawback' by MassHealth; and that the lien remained in place because the estate was improperly probated."

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