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State may recover from estate of Medicaid recipient’s spouse, rules Idaho Supreme Court

Federal law did not preempt the state’s ability to recover from a husband’s estate what was once community property during his marriage to a Medicaid recipient, the Idaho Supreme Court has ruled.

A married couple jointly owned a home. As the couple got older, the wife gave the husband power of attorney and he conveyed the wife’s interest to himself. The wife later received more than $100,000 in medical benefits through the Medicaid program.

When the husband predeceased the wife, the state filed a claim with the probate court seeking entitlement to the property.

The court denied the claim, ruling that recovery was limited under federal law to property “in which the recipient spouse had an interest at the time of her death” and that the wife had validly conveyed the property to her husband.

But the court disagreed.

“In light of the ambiguously inclusive nature of [Medicaid’s definition of ‘estate’] and the plain definition of ‘assets’ in [in the Medicaid statute], we cannot find that federal law preempts the [state] from providing for recovery of assets from both spouses’ estates under [Idaho law], including assets that were community property during marriage,” the court said.

It cited contrary authority from the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Idaho Supreme Court. In re Perry, No. 38694. Aug. 9, 2012. Lawyers USA No. 993-3440.

About Correy Stephenson