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Douglas V. Kardos: A Win For California Estate Recovery Against Annuities

By Expert Author: Dale Krause

Mr. Schow entered a California nursing home in July of 2002 and received Medi-Cal benefits from that point on, until his untimely death in November of 2003. To establish his Medi-Cal eligiblity Mr. Schow’s wife had purchased a Medi-Cal Compliant Annuity. In January of 2005, Mrs. Schow purchased a Medi-Cal Compliant Annuity with what remained of her life savings, and entered a nursing home in February of 2009. Mrs. Schow received Medi-Cal benefits from that point on, until her untimely death in September of 2009.

In April of 2010 the California Department of Health Care Services (“DHCS”) requested repayment for health care services provided to Mrs. Schow in the amount of $24,236.93 and for repayment for health care services provided to Mr. Schow int he amount of $49,095.12. Together, the requested repayment amount equates to $73,332.05, plus interest. In March of 2011 the daughter and personal representative of the estate, presented documentation to DHCS indicating the estate was valued at $1,603.60. Payment of the same was made to DHCS. DHCS then sough to pursue the residual benefits of Mrs. Schow’s annuity, which were passed to the daughter through an irrevocable beneficiary designation upon Mrs. Schow’s death.

Ultimately, in the words of DHCS, “the State has no means to recover from a properly structured annuity contract…that names a beneficiary other than the estate of the decedent.” The residual annuity benefits did not become a part of Mrs. Schow’s estate upon her death. Thus, DHCS had no standing to claim against the annuity in question.

As the defendant’s brief comes to a conclusion, the defendant’s attorney states:

“The DHCS has maintained an unreasonable posture with the intent of bullying a senior into paying a demand they cannot justify. All of the DHCS participants in the process have not had to bear personal responsibility, financial or ethically, for their conduct. The strategy of the Plaintiff has been to assert the power of the State in the manner that will cause the Defendant to yield to its power and to avoid responsibility for its dreadful mistake. This time, that strategy has failed. It is unnerving to think of how often it has succeeded.”

Prior to trial, the attorney general’s office saw the merits in the defendant’s case and accepted an offer to compromise. The case was dismissed.

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