Estate of Rosenberg v. Department of Public Welfare

679 A.2d 767, 545 Pa. 27 (1996)

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Estate of Rosenberg v. Department of Public Welfare

Pennsylvania Supreme Court
679 A.2d 767, 545 Pa. 27 (1996)

Facts

Louis Rosenberg died in 1976. Louis’s will gave his wife, Mary Rosenberg (plaintiff), $157,000 and placed the remaining $65,000 of his estate in a trust. The trust agreement directed the trustee to pay the net income to Mary, and in the trustee’s sole discretion, to use the principal for her comfort, welfare, and maintenance and support, and for her medical and surgical expenses. Following Mary’s death, the remainder of the trust was to pass to Louis’s then-living issue. During Louis’s lifetime, he had a pattern of giving money to his children and grandchildren, and he established trusts for his grandchildren. Mary and Louis were relatively healthy and did not need public assistance during Louis’s lifetime. In 1987 Mary moved to a nursing home. By 1992 Mary had spent the $157,000, and she applied for Medicaid. To be eligible, an applicant had to have less than $2,500 in assets. The Department of Public Welfare (DPW) (defendant) ruled that the $55,000 in principal remaining in the testamentary trust was an available asset and denied benefits. While Mary’s claim was pending, she died, and her estate (plaintiff) was substituted as plaintiff. The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court affirmed the DPW’s denial of benefits. The estate appealed, arguing Louis intended Mary to use public-assistance benefits to preserve the trust corpus.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Flaherty, J.)

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