Brief Fact Summary. Appellant appeals from a judgment wherein the court declined to allow a Medicaid recipient to rescind a disclaimer he made in respect to an inheritance he was to receive from his deceased sister’s estate.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Where a recipient renounces an inheritance that would cause him to be financially disqualified from receiving benefits, the renunciation should incur the same penalty of disqualification that acceptance would have brought about, and should render the recipient liable for any payments incorrectly paid by the state in consequence.
Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.
The remedy is applied by operation of law where property has been acquired by fraud, misrepresentation, or other improper method, or where the circumstances render it inequitable for the party holding the title to retain it.
Facts. On February 4, 1992, Paul Lettich, appointed Richard Troy, appellant, as his attorney in fact and granted him power of attorney. In April 1992 Lettich became a resident of the Cardinal Sheehan Center for the Aging, Stella Maris Hospice, and appellant applied for medical assistance on behalf of Lettich to be used when his resources became exhausted. Around January 1, 1995, Lettich was deemed qualified to receive benefits and all medical expenses from then on were paid by Medicare and Medicaid. On February 25, 1995, Lettich’s sister, Alta Mae Lettich died intestate and was survived by Lettich, and her two sisters, Mildred Hart and Gladys McGlaughlin. Personal contact between Lettich and his sisters was minimal but appellant kept them abreast of Lettich’s status, including appellant’s legal relationship with Lettich. Hart was appointed personal representative of Alta Mae’s estate and shortly after visited Lettich and assisted him in executing a disclaimer to his share of
their sister’s estate. Hart and McGlaughlin each became $50,000 richer as a result of Lettich disclaiming his inheritance. The following month, appellant was notified that decedent had renounced his inheritance, and as a result promptly retained counsel on Lettich’s behalf, who filed, in the Orphan’s Court, a petition to rescind Lettich’s disclaimer and remove Hart as the personal representative of Alta Mae’s estate. Hart retained an attorney, Veil, and requested that he execute a motion to strike the Orphan’s Court petition and to execute a revocation of appellant’s power of attorney. Appellant contacted Lettich’s counsel and she advised Veil that she represented Lettich and that Veil was forbidden to speak to Lettich. Lettich died on September 20, 1995. Following the orphan court’s denial of the petition, appellant sought a de novo appeal in the Circuit Court for Washington County. The court granted Hart’s motion for judgment with respect to the attempt to have her removed as
personal representative of the estate but dismissed the portion of the petition that sought to rescind Lettich’s disclaimer. Appellant filed a timely notice of appeal.
Issue. Whether the court erred in holding that the Medicaid recipient could disclaim his inheritance?
Held. No. Judgment affirmed.
Lettich’s disclaimer is valid. The effect of Lettich’s disclaimer was to transfer his intestate interest in Alta Mae’s estate to his surviving sisters. Accepting the inheritance would have made him financially ineligible for Medicaid.
Lettich’s failure to disclose the inheritance he was to receive from his sister’s estate, resulted in the improper payment of Medicaid benefits by the State on behalf of Lettich after the expiration of the grace period, inasmuch as the inheritance would have caused the program to reassess Lettich’s eligibility in light of his changed financial circumstances.
Discussion. Medicaid is a means tested program wherein eligibility for Medicaid is dependent upon meeting various income and resource tests. Once an individual begins receiving benefits, it is possible that his eligibility status might change due to changed financial circumstances.