A California appeals court rules that the heir of an estate who sold her interest in her mother’s house to her brother is liable to the state for reimbursement of her mother’s Medicaid expenses. Estate of Mays (Cal. App., 3d, No. C070568, June 30, 2014).
Medi-Cal (Medicaid) recipient Merver Mays died, leaving her house as her only asset. Ms. Mays’ daughter, Betty Bedford, petitioned the court to be appointed administrator of the estate, but she was never formally appointed because she didn’t pay the surety bond. The state filed a creditor’s claim against the estate for reimbursement of Medi-Cal expenses, and the court determined the claim was valid. A dispute arose between Ms. Bedford and her brother, Roy Flemons, over ownership of the house. After the court determined Mr. Flemons owned a one-half interest in the property, Ms. Bedford and Mr. Flemons entered into an agreement in which Mr. Flemons paid Ms. Bedford $75,000 and transferred the house to his name.
The state petitioned the court for an order requiring Ms. Bedford to account for her administration of Ms. Mays’s estate. The court determined Ms. Bedford was liable to the state for the amount she received from Mr. Flemons because although she wasn’t formally appointed administrator, she was acting as administrator. Ms. Bedford appealed.
The California Court of Appeal, 3rd Appellate District, affirms on different grounds. The court rules that Ms. Bedford cannot be held liable due to her failure as administrator of the estate because she was never formally appointed administrator. However, the court holds that Ms. Bedford is liable as an heir of the estate who received estate property. According to the court, Ms. Bedford’s settlement with Mr. Flemons was “essentially an end-run around the creditor’s claim and the estate process” and “the $75,000 payment represented proceeds of the estate that would otherwise be available to satisfy creditors’ claims.”
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