Sibling Home Ownership Rights and Medicaid Repayment Question

(Staten Island, NY, USA)

(NY) Life Estate holder passes away..who owns the home now?

My Dad wrote a will in 1987 leaving his home to his 4 children (me & 3 siblings). In Aug 2006 he had to enter a Nursing Home & apply for Medicaid. At that time, with the help of an Attorney, he transferred the home to me (his son), who lived with him for many years taking care of his physical & monetary needs. He retained a "Life Estate" in the property. This exempted the home from the "look back period". The Medicaid was approved. Sadly, he passed away last August.

It is my understanding the upon his death, the Life Estate is terminated and 100% ownership passes to me. Do my siblings have any ownership interest in the property? 2 of them are trying to force me to sell the home so they can get the proceeds. I don't believe they can do this as the home was not part of his probate estate.

Also, if the home had been put into all 4 of our names at the time of the Medicaid application, would Medicaid have been able to lien the home to be re-paid?

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Jul 27, 2010
Siblings Almost Certainly Have No Claim To The House
by: Mo Johnson

Your father need not have retained a life estate: a transfer to a child who lived with a parent for at least two years prior to entering a nursing home, and whose care allowed the parent to delay entering the nursing home, is exempt from the Medicaid penalty provisions.

However, since you did indeed get a remainder interest in the house, it passed automatically 100% to you upon your father's death. In legal terms, your father's life estate simply terminated at his death, leaving you the 100% owner, all without passing through probate.

Thus, your siblings have no claim to the house. Their only possible claim would be that your father was improperly influenced by you when he signed the deed, but they would have to file a lawsuit to set aside the deed and if they were to win, the house would pass under the will to all the children equally.

If the house were put in all four names when Dad entered the nursing home, it would have caused a long penalty period and required the children to pay for your dad's care, as Medicaid would not pay for Dad until that penalty period expired.

The home would not be exempt unless Dad owned the home; if he did, then they could place a lien on it.

You can read about these and other Medicaid rules at Medicaid Secrets.

Jul 27, 2010
I think I'm confused..
by: Bill

I understand the whole portion about the Life Estate ending and 100% ownership going to me, however I am confused about the last part. (I am trying to proactively anticipate any "scenarios")>
If, instead of my Dad deeding the home to me (and he retaining Life Estate), the home had been put into all 4 of our names (3 of whom did not live with, nor provide care for Dad), is it correct that Medicaid could lien 75% of the home to be re-paid ? (but not my 25% because I was the caregiver) in essence, delaying the approval of Medicaid until the approx. $11,000 monthly Nursing Home care is paid from the value of the home?

Jul 29, 2010
Yes, transfer to non-caretaker children would have caused penalty
by: Mo

A transfer to a non-caretaker child is a penalty-causing gift, so deeding the home outright to all four children would have caused the imposition of a very long penalty, keeping Dad from receiving Medicaid coverage for many months and leaving the family to foot the $11,000 monthly bill themselves until the expiration of the penalty period.

A lien may or may not have been placed on the home (not all states do that) and that would only occur after Medicaid started paying for Dad's care. A lien prevents the sale of the home during the parent's lifetime without first paying back the state for any Medicaid benefits it provided for the senior and also prevents the transfer of the home after the death of the senior without first paying back the state.

So no lien would have been placed on the house, in any case, following the transfer until after the resulting penalty period expired and Dad was covered by Medicaid.

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