Can't get blood out of a turnip. I wouldn't bother responding since there's nothing for the state to put a lien against.
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What was the lien on? DId your FIL have a house or other assets that passed outside probate? You say there are no assets. If there are truly no assets, there is nothing to lien and you have no responsibility for your FIL's debt. If there WERE assets, then you might be responsible under the estate recovery act in NC. If there were assets of any kind that passed to you as a result of your FIL's death, then you need to address this with an attorney. You should actually do so, anyway, because you will obviously want to respond to the state, anyway.
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I recommend that you meet with an elder law attorney as soon as possible to review the claim you received from Medicaid. If your father-in-law owned any real estate at his death, it is possible that although you did not have to administer an estate, there were assets that Medicaid could seek recovery from. There are certain instances where estate recovery can be waived. An elder law attorney who is familiar with medicaid estate recovery can assist you in determining if the claim should be waived.
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They are not asking for just the money paid to the nursing home, they are searching for any available assets to pay the outstanding lien for your father in law's care. They are also trying to see if all of the money went to nursing care or whether there is real estate or other assets which can now be legally retrieved to offset the money paid out on your father-in-law's behalf.
Please see an Elder Care Attorney for assistance filing the appropriate response.
I agree with Doris but would add that while the state could simply be asking for information to determine if there is an estate recovery claim, they also could be under the impression that your husband may have spent his father's money improperly or acted improperly regarding Medicaid application or otherwise. Thus, I urge you to consult a local elder law attorney ASAP. A local elder law attorney probably will have a good sense of whether you should be concerned. Lawrence Friedman, Bridgewater, NJ. Certified as an Elder Law Attorney by the ABA approved National Elder Law Foundation, former Chair NJ State Bar Association Elder and Disabilities Law Section, Member Board of Consultors of NJSBA Real Property, Trusts & Estates Law Section, Vice Chair Special Needs Law Section of National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, and Master of Laws (L.L.M.) in Taxation from N.Y.U. School of Law.