In re Estate of Wirtz

2000 N.D. 59, 607 N.W.2d 882 (2000)

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In re Estate of Wirtz

North Dakota Supreme Court
2000 N.D. 59, 607 N.W.2d 882 (2000)

  • Written by Liz Nakamura, JD

Facts

Clarence Wirtz received Medicaid benefits for nursing home care through the North Dakota Department of Human Services (DHS) (plaintiff). Clarence was over the age of 55 and married to Verna Wirtz when he received Medicaid benefits. Clarence died in 1997, and Verna died in 1998. Verna never received Medicaid benefits. Clarence’s estate was not probated. Verna’s estate (defendant) was probated, and Vernon Caroline (defendant) was appointed as her estate’s personal representative. After Verna’s death, DHS filed a claim to recover Clarence’s medical costs from Verna’s estate, arguing that Verna’s entire estate was subject to Medicaid estate recovery because Clarence had a marital or equitable interest in Verna’s entire estate at the time of his death. The estate countered, arguing that Medicaid’s ability to recover from Verna’s estate was limited to assets transferred to Verna upon Clarence’s death through a life estate, joint tenancy, living trust, or survivorship account. The parties conceded that none of Clarence’s assets were transferred to Verna after Clarence’s death through a life estate, joint tenancy, living trust, or survivorship account. The trial court dismissed DHS’s petition, holding that DHS could not recover from Verna’s estate because Clarence did not have legal title or interest in any of Verna’s assets at the time of his death. DHS appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Neumann, J.)

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