Medicaid Determination Must Be Final Before Spouse Can Be Awarded Assets Under Protective Order

A Michigan appeals court rules that although the spouse of a Medicaid applicant was entitled to a protective order, the trial court had failed in evaluating and transferring the applicant’s assets before a Medicaid determination had been made. In Re Estate of Sizick (Mich. Ct. App., No. 357785, May 26, 2022).

Jerome Sizick entered a nursing home. Two months later, his wife, Janet Sizick, filed a Medicaid application on his behalf. While the application was pending, she petitioned the court for a protective order, requesting that Mr. Sizick’s income and assets be transferred to her.

The Medicaid agency objected to the petition, arguing that the court did not have the authority to impoverish Mr. Sizick and that his property needed be identified and counted before it could be transferred to Ms. Sizick. When the trial court granted the protective order, transferring all of Mr. Sizick’s assets and a portion of his income to Ms. Sizick, the Medicaid agency appealed.

The Michigan Court of Appeals affirms the protective order, but remands to the trial court to evaluate and identify the transferred property. The court holds that there must be a Medicaid determination before Medicaid can be considered in assessing Mr. Sizick’s need. It also finds that there was no evidence the trial court had accurately identified and evaluated Mr. Sizick’s assets. “As a result, it is unclear what assets or property are included in trial court’s ‘countable assets’ calculation, whose ownership interest is included in the trial court’s calculation or petition, and whether the trial court’s order transferred property independently owned by [Ms. Sizick].”

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