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In re Estate of Gullberg

October 29, 2002

IN RE: ESTATE OF JEAN GULLBERG, A/K/A JEAN WEILAND GULLBERG, DECEASED.


Dakota County District Court File No. P8016555

Considered and decided by Toussaint Chief Judge, Klaphake Judge, and Minge Judge.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

1. When a Medicaid recipient conveys his or her interest in the homestead to a spouse, who survives the recipient, the county retains the right to make a claim against the surviving spouse's estate, but only to the extent of the recipient's interest in the homestead at the time of death.

2. Minnesota's estate recovery statute, Minn. Stat. § 256B.15 (2000), is preempted by federal law, 42 U.S.C. § 1396p (1994), only to the extent that the Minnesota statute permits recovery beyond the value of a recipient's interest in an asset at the time of death.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Klaphake, Judge

Reversed and remanded

Minge, Judge, concurring specially

OPINION

Intervenor appellant Minnesota Department of Human Services (the state) and appellant Dakota County (the county) challenge a district court decision denying the county's claim against respondent, the Estate of Jean Gullberg, for reimbursement of medical assistance benefits paid on behalf of Jean Gullberg's husband, Walter Gullberg, who predeceased her. The district court denied the county's petition for allowance of the claim, holding that Minnesota's estate recovery statute, Minn. Stat. § 256B.15, subd. 2 (2000), is preempted by 42 U.S.C. § 1396p(b)(4)(B) (2000).

On appeal, this court has granted the state's motion to intervene and the county's subsequent motion to join in the state's brief. Because Minnesota's estate recovery statute is preempted only to the extent that it conflicts with federal law, we reverse and remand to determine the nature and extent of Walter Gullberg's interest in the homestead at the time of his death.

FACTS

Walter and Jean Gullberg were married when they purchased their homestead property in 1983. The warranty deed listed them as joint tenants. On October 30, 1992, Walter Gullberg conveyed his interest in the homestead by quit claim deed to Jean Gullberg, who was still his wife. Less than one month later, Walter Gullberg applied for medical assistance. On the application for medical assistance, the homestead was valued at between $57,300 and $59,000. Between December 1, 1992 and his death on February 13, 1994, at the age of 70, Walter Gullberg received $40,081.31 in medical assistance benefits.

Jean Gullberg died more than six years later, on September 11, 2000, having never received medical assistance benefits. The only asset listed in her estate inventory was the homestead, which was valued at $119,900.

On March 15, 2001, the county filed a claim in the amount of $40,081.31 against the estate under Minnesota's estate recovery statute, Minn. Stat. ยง 256B.15, subd. 2 (2000). The Gullbergs' daughter, who had been appointed personal representative of the estate, disallowed the claim. The county thereafter filed a petition with the district court seeking allowance of the claim. On May 31, 2001, while the county's ...


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