It is no secret that the cost of long-term care can be out of reach for many families. Often, those families turn to state Medicaid programs to help pay for care for a loved one, and then are surprised to receive a bill upon their loved one’s death.

Estate recovery, mandated to take place in each of the 50 states, is the process by which the state attempts to recover the costs it paid out for an individual’s care over his or her lifetime. With the average annual cost of skilled nursing care hovering in the six-figure range, these bills are not insignificant, and arrive at a time when the family may still be grieving. (See a first-person account of estate recovery in other states at: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/10/when-medicaid-takes-everything-you-own/596671/).

In Texas, estate recovery only applies to individuals over the age of 55 who receive long-term care services (after March 1, 2005). Compared to several other states, Texans are lucky in that estate recovery focuses on the recipient’s probate assets. Probate assets are things like a house and/or land, bank accounts and personal property. (Non-probate assets, by contrast, are items that pass to beneficiaries by contract, such as life insurance policies, IRAs or other retirement benefits.)

There are several exceptions to estate recovery in Texas, such as when the Medicaid recipient is survived by a spouse or a child under the age of 21. However, even if the exceptions do not apply, there are several options to help avoid estate recovery for families who choose to plan ahead. Some probate assets may be converted into non-probate assets by adding payable on death designations. The home may also be protected by a Transfer on Death Deed, which removes it from the probate estate.

Ideally, these steps are taken at the same time that the recipient is applying for Medicaid – or even beforehand. A family may be so focused on obtaining care for a loved one that estate recovery can be overlooked. But that can be an expensive mistake down the road.

More information about the estate recovery process in Texas may be found here: https://hhs.texas.gov/laws-regulations/legal-information/your-guide-medicaid-estate-recovery-program.

Contact Balmos Law today with questions related to long-term care benefits or estate recovery.