State Can Place Lien on Medicaid Recipient's Life Estate After Recipient Dies

An Ohio appeals court rules that a deceased Medicaid recipient's life estate does not extinguish at death for the purposes of Medicaid estate recovery, so the state may place a lien on the property. Phillips v. McCarthy (Ohio Ct. App., 12th Dist., No. CA2015-08-01, May 16, 2016).

Lawrence Hesse transferred ownership in his farm to his three daughters, retaining a life estate for himself. Mr. Hesse later moved to a nursing home and received Medicaid benefits for one year before he died. After his death, the state filed a lien on the property for Medicaid benefits paid on Mr. Hesse's behalf.

Mr. Hesse's daughters filed a quiet title action against the state, arguing that because Mr. Hesse's life estate extinguished when Mr. Hesse died, the state could not assert a lien against the property after his death. The trial court granted summary judgment to the state, and Mr. Hesse's daughters appealed.

The Ohio Court of Appeals affirms, holding that the state could place a lien on the property after Mr. Hesse died. According to the court, with regard to Medicaid estate recovery "a life estate interest held by a Medicaid recipient does not extinguish upon his or her death. Rather, for purposes of Medicaid recovery, a life estate interest endures post mortem and represents a quantifiable asset which the state may encumber by virtue of a properly filed lien."

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