Steve. Jr., the unmarried son of Steve, Sr., moved into his widowed father’s home and cared for him for several years. Following a severely impairing stroke, Steve, Sr. entered a local nursing home after having qualified for Medicaid. Steve, Jr. continued to live in the homestead, visiting his father daily. Some months after his father’s death.

Junior received a letter from the Medicaid Estate Recovery Program (MERP) seeking recovery for the $101,345,000 Medicaid had expended for Senior’s care. Steve Jr. panicked because his father’s only asset is the home and Steve has nowhere to live if he has to sell the home to pay the MERP claim.   

Steve, Jr. can relax.

He has a defense against MERP’s claim. MERP does not collect a claim under the following circumstances:

A spouse survives the recipient; A child under 21 years of age survives the recipient; A child of any age who is blind or permanently and totally disabled under Social Security requirements survives the recipient; The estate’s value is $10,000 or less; The Medicaid benefit paid is $3,000 or less; An unmarried adult child lived full-time in the recipient’s home for at least one year prior to recipient’s death;  Selling the property would cost more than the property is worth; or Heirs can show paying would cause them undue hardship. Steve, Jr. falls under the exemption of an unmarried child of the Medicaid recipient, who had lived full-time in the recipient’s home for at least a year before the recipient died.

Steve must present evidence of meeting the exemption requirements. Generally, this will mean producing (1) a marriage/divorce verification letter from the Texas Bureau of Vital Statistics, also known as a Single Status Letter; (2) a copy of the unmarried adult’s utility bills, bank statements or employer pay records for 12 consecutive months immediately prior to the recipient’s death with addresses that match the Medicaid recipient’s homestead address; and (3) a copy of the unmarried adult child’s driver’s license.

Steve had no problem with (1) and (3). However, he receives all his mail in a post office box. In lieu of the bills, bank statements or employer payment records, he had to obtain sworn statements or affidavits from three neighbors who could vouch for the fact that he had lived in his father’s residence the year before he died.

Sandra W. Reed is an attorney with Katten & Benson, an Elder Law firm in Fort Worth. She lives in beautiful Somervell County, near Chalk Mountain.