Walker County Probate Judge Lee Tucker said recently that new state legislation passed this year will mandate reporting on estates after death - even if there is no money owed - to help Medicaid to determine on its own if it can recoup some of its funds.
Tucker pointed to Act 2019-489 passed by the Alabama Legislature this year, starting out as SB76. Gov. Kay Ivey signed the act on June 10, and it will go into law Sep. 1.
"It appears that it is a reimbursement effort. They are trying to find more of the money that may be owed," Tucker said in his office. "They are going to require that in every estate that's filed in the court, in the whole state, whether it is for an older person in the nursing home that's on Medicaid or not, that there is a notice filed that is sent to the Alabama Medicaid Agency.
"There is a notice required to be sent for every estate that has to be sent by the attorneys. Medicaid services then have 30 days to file a response," he said. "It is either a response that there is not money owed or there is a claim. They have four different responses."
Today, if you know an estate owes money to anyone, including the bank of a loan, then you have to give notice you are filing the estate. Now, every estate will have to file something.
"The difference in terms of this, they are requiring every estate, whether you know there is any money owed, whether you know there is not any money owed, they are requiring you to file that notice with Medicaid so that they know each one that gets filed so that they can make a determination on their own if there is money owed from that estate to Medicaid," Tucker said.
If Medicaid does not file anything after 30 days of getting a notice, then Medicaid loses the right to take action, he said.
Tucker pointed out Medicaid is the major payer for long-term care involving nursing homes. That is the major thing Medicaid will use the law for, is to recoup any funds it thinks in can in some of those cases, and will look for files and claims it has made against properties.
Tucker noted if there is a "in community spouse" situation, where one spouse lives in the house and one lives in the nursing home, Medicaid can't make the one living in the house to leave. "But they can put a lien against it when the value of the estate is over a certain amount," he said.
The new act will affect attorneys filing on behalf of estates throughout the state, he said.
"I've made copies of the act and I'm providing it to attorneys who practice in front of this court so that they have that knowledge and then go through and send it properly with the notice in there," Tucker said. Other people who might want to know more about the act can also view the act at the Probate Judge's Office.
A copy of the law can also be found on the Secretary of State's website, sos.alabama.gov, under "Records," and then "Legislative acts," using the act number, 2019-489.