Estate recovery. What is it? A run-down estate becoming robust again? Getting the estate back from robber-barons? I suppose either is possible, but in this space we tend to look at such terms from a state perspective.

Periodically, we get calls about various aspects of programs that are totally unfamiliar to people. Sometimes, it’s because they have never been involved in programs that may have such considerations. It makes sense. We don’t know what we don’t know.

In the aforementioned arena of Washington State services, estate recovery allows the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) and Health Care Authority (HCA) to recover costs paid by the state (under certain circumstances) for certain services.

In our world, this usually is about Medicaid long-term care services. Early on, let me mention that not all Medicaid programs have estate recovery attached. One example is the Medicaid funded Medicare Savings Program. (I know, Medicaid, Medicare, the names sometimes blur.)

An estate isn’t necessarily a 100 acre mansion on the lake, but — quoting from the material — “includes anything a person owns or has a legal interest in at the time of death.” Also, let’s be clear that the recovery is less than coming home from a funeral and finding a For Sale on the property, and more of a lien.

There are also exceptions. Recovery isn’t allowable during the life of a surviving spouse, or while a child is under 21 or is blind and/or has a disability. As you can imagine, definitions and exceptions can get pretty convoluted quickly, so let this be a reminder that a lawyer specializing in estate planning can be very helpful

Another exception to recovery is that certain assets of American Indians or Alaska Natives are exempt. And then there are scenarios where recovery can be deferred…

I won’t go into all the minutiae for a few reasons: 1. I don’t know everything about every part and the what if’s; 2. There’s more detailed information available online (noted later); and 3. I’m not an attorney.

A good place to start would be and search for estate recovery — and while you’re there, explore a ton of other information that might be useful.

If you don’t have a computer, contact our office and we can send you a printed copy of Estate Recovery for Medical Services Paid for by the State. Some knowledge at least allows us to start asking the right questions.

Information & Assistance

Long Beach: 360-642-3634

or 888-571-6558

Raymond: 360-942-2177

or 888-571-6557

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