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Can the state put a claim against my house after I die?

I enrolled in the Medi-Cal Expansion Program. Can the state put a claim against my house after I die?

Dear Advocate:

I’m 56 years old and I recently enrolled in the Medi-Cal Expansion Program, which provides medical care to me at no cost. While I’m grateful to have coverage, I also heard that the state could put a claim against my house after I die. Is that true?

Worried Sick in Worswick

Dear Worried Sick,

Yes. State and Federal laws allow the state to seek repayment for services received upon your death. However, there may be some good news. CANHR is proud to be a co-sponsor of SB 1124, which would eliminate estate recovery for Medi-Cal costs incurred on behalf of beneficiaries 55 years of age and over, unless they are institutionalized. Please show your support by calling or writing to the Senator and Assemblymember in your district and ask them to vote “Yes” on SB 1124.
At this time, the best way to avoid recovery is to have nothing in the Medi-Cal beneficiary’s name at the time of death. Since an outright transfer can have tax and other consequences, this is not generally recommended. However, there are several alternatives, such as grant deeds with occupancy agreements or irrevocable life estates, that can avoid recovery, avoid probate, avoid tax consequences and still leave the beneficiary with the right to live in the home. Any such transactions should always be discussed with a qualified estate planning attorney.
If you need an attorney, CANHR has a statewide, state bar-certified referral service for attorneys specializing in estate planning for long term care. For more information, call CANHR at 800-474-1116.