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In re Estate of Handy

December 09, 2003

IN RE: ESTATE OF VIVA BERTHA HANDY, DECEDENT


Murray County District Court File No. P600253

Considered and decided by Kalitowski, Presiding Judge, Halbrooks, Judge, and Stoneburner, Judge.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

Under Minn. Stat. § 256B.15, subd. 4 (2000), the requirement that a medical-assistance recipient's child or grandchild "resided" in the recipient's home "continuously since the date of [recipient's] institutionalization" means that the child or grandchild must have physically lived in the recipient's home as a primary residence continuously since the date of the recipient's institutionalization. Physically residing elsewhere with intent to return to the recipient's home sometime in the future does not satisfy the requirement of the statute.

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

Affirmed

OPINION

Appellants, the child and grandchildren of now deceased medical-assistance recipient Viva Bertha Handy, assert that the district court erred by granting summary judgment to respondent Department of Human Services on its claim against Viva Bertha Handy's estate to recover medical-assistance payments for her nursing home care. Because the district court correctly determined that appellants did not continuously reside in Viva Bertha Handy's home from the date of her institutionalization as required under Minn. Stat. § 256B.15, subd. 4 (2000), to limit the state's recovery to non-homestead assets, we affirm.

FACTS

In the spring of 1978, Raymond Handy, the only child of Viva Bertha Handy (Viva Handy), moved, with his wife and sons, Mathew and David, into a mobile home located next to Viva Handy's farmhouse on her 89-acre homestead in Cottonwood County.*fn1 Viva Handy was subsequently diagnosed with senility, likely due to the onset of Alzheimer's disease. Viva Handy needed extensive assistance to remain in her home until she was institutionalized in September 1988. It is undisputed that appellants physically resided on the homestead and provided the care that permitted Viva Handy to remain at home rather than in an institution. After Viva Handy went to live in the nursing home, the farmhouse became uninhabitable beyond repair.

For economic reasons, Raymond Handy stopped farming the homestead in 1996, after which the farmland was rented. By 1997, Matthew and David Handy were no longer living on the homestead. David Handy has not physically resided on the homestead since 1993, when he enlisted in the armed services. He remains on active duty and lists the homestead as his permanent address.

Raymond Handy and his wife moved away from the homestead for the winter months in November 1997 because they could not afford to heat the farmhouse, which was necessary in order to provide the mobile home with water in the winter. In April 1998, they returned to the homestead. They moved to town again in December 1998 and returned to the homestead in May 1999. The water pump broke in the fall of 1999 and, for economic reasons, was not repaired. Raymond Handy and his wife moved to town for the winter of 1999 and did not return to live on the homestead.

Although Matthew Handy stayed at the mobile home on the homestead from August 2000 to February 2001, appellants admit that the mobile home was, at that time, and remains essentially uninhabitable and needs repairs that would cost $2,000 to $2,500 to make it habitable. Raymond Handy always intended to return to the homestead once he had saved enough money to repair the mobile home and water pump.

Raymond Handy maintains the homestead address on his driver's license. He has paid the electric bill for the homestead and has kept the property insured. His personal checks list the homestead as his address. But Raymond Handy has used his town address on other documents, including pay stubs and benefit applications.

Viva Handy died on October 27, 2000. Her will bequeathed the homestead to Matthew and David Handy, subject to a life estate in Raymond Handy. Respondent paid medical assistance in the amount of $212,877.73 toward Viva Handy's nursing-home care before her death. After Viva Handy's death, respondent filed a priority claim against her estate to recover the medical-assistance payments. Appellants assert that under Minn. Stat. § 265B.15, subd. 4 (2000), respondent's medical-assistance claim is limited to Viva Handy's non-homestead assets. The district court granted the county's motion for summary judgment and this appeal followed.

ISSUES

Under Minn. Stat. ยง 256B.15, subd. 4 (2000), must a child or grandchild have physically resided continuously at the medical-assistance recipient's home from the date of the recipient's institutionalization to limit the state's recovery of ...


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