When Is a Lien Placed on a MassHealth Applicant’s Home and What Does the Lien Do?

by: Brian E. Barreira, Esq.

An unmarried person who applies for MassHealth long-term care to help cover nursing home expenses is usually allowed to keep ownership of his/her home.  One main exception would be if there is equity of more than $750,000 in the home.

Federal Medicaid law and MassHealth regulations allow the applicant’s home to be kept if the applicant’s intends to return home.   A lien is often placed on the home by MassHealth so that the agency will learn if the home is being sold during the MassHealth recipient’s lifetime.   If it is sold, MassHealth often will be reimbursed at the real estate closing for whatever amount has been spent on the care of the MassHealth recipient through that date.

A lien is often placed on any ownership interest that the MassHealth applicant has.  Therefore, a lien can be placed on the home if the MassHealth recipient has a partial ownership interest, including joint tenancy or a life estate.  The lien currently has no legal effect unless the home is sold during the MassHealth recipient’s lifetime.  Upon the MassHealth recipient’s death, the lien on the home is removed.  At that point, MassHealth would file an estate recovery claim as a creditor of the deceased MassHealth recipient’s probate estate, and there would be no estate recovery claim under current Massachusetts law unless the home was subject to the probate process.

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