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Hines v. Dep’t of Pub. Aid, 221 Ill. 2d 222 (Ill. 2006)

Beverly Tutinas’s husband, Julian, was on Medicaid, but she was not. When Beverly died owning a home valued at $69,641.89 and a car worth $2,000, the State of Illinois filed a claim against Beverly’s estate, seeking to recover what Medicaid had invested in Julian’s care. The court found that, although the State clearly had a right to proceed against Julian’s estate under 42 U.S.C. § 1396p(b) and under State law, that is not what happened. The court found that the Medicaid statute does not authorize a claim against Beverly’s estate to recoup what was spent on Julian. However, that did not end the inquiry because if State law adopted the “expanded estate recovery” permitted under federal law, then assets transferred from Julian to Beverly might be subject to the claim. The court found that Illinois had not adopted an expanded view of estate recovery, except in situations where a long-term care insurance policy was involved. “Under Illinois probate law, property held in joint tenancy is never part of the estate of the joint owner who dies first. Upon the death of one joint tenant, title to the property automatically vests in the surviving joint tenant. [citation omitted]. Accordingly, the house and automobile at issue in this case cannot be deemed part of Julius’ estate for purposes of the Department’s action for reimbursement of the Medicaid payments made on his behalf. The proceeds from the sale of that property are therefore not subject to the Department’s claim under section 5-13 of the Public Aid Code.”

Note: The law on estate recovery continues to develop as States become more aggressive in recovery litigation. The law is different in each State, depending whether recovery is limited to the probate estate or an expanded estate. Other estate recovery cases with varied results include In re Estate of Smith, 2006 Tenn. App. LEXIS 715 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2006); In re Estate of Barg, 722 N.W.2d 492 (Minn. Ct. App. 2006); In re Estate of Nistler, 2006 Minn. App. Unpub. LEXIS 1053 (Minn. Ct. App. Unpub. 2006); Dep’t of Human Servs. v. Laughead (In re Estate of Laughead), 696 N.W.2d 312 (Iowa 2005); Estate of DeMartino v. Div. of Med. Assistance & Health Servs., 373 N.J. Super. 210 (App. Div. 2004); State Dep’t of Human Res. v. Estate of Ullmer, 87 P.3d 1045 (Nev. 2004); In re Estate of Jobe, 590 N.W.2d 162 (Minn. Ct. App. 1999); Idaho Dep’t of Health & Welfare v. Jackman (In Re Estate of Knudson), 132 Idaho 213 (Idaho 1998).

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