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In the Estate of George Macormic, 244 S.W.3d 254 (Mo. App. S.D. 2008)

Factual Background:

    Decedent died on April 11, 2005.  Prior to his death he had been receiving public assistance benefits through the State Medicaid program.  The decedent’s will provided that upon his death the entirety of his estate would be devised to the “George S. Macormic Revocable Trust,” which named as trustees, Lance Macormic and Cecilia Stogsdill.  The trustees of the trust sold the property at auction and distributed it amongst the beneficiaries of the trust.  Pursuant to RSMo. §473.398 the State sought to recover its public assistance expenditures from the decedent’s estate as a creditor of the estate.  The trustees sought to dismiss the petitions, arguing that the State was not a proper creditor of the estate to demand an accounting. 

Held:

    The Circuit Court of Phelps County, Judge Ronald White, dismissed the petitions stating that the State lacked standing to file such petitions and closed the estate.  The State of Missouri appealed.

On Appeal:

    The State of Missouri, becomes a creditor of an estate when it seeks to recover public assistance expenditures from a decedent’s estate, and like any other creditor of an estate, may properly move for the discovery of assets and for an accounting. 

Rationale:

    RSMo. §473.398.1 provides that a decedent who accepts Medicaid benefits from the state owes a debt to the State for “the total amount paid to the decedent or expended upon his behalf.”  This debt necessarily survives the death of the decedent in that RSMo. §473.398 specifically states that it can be collected from the estate of the deceased.  Further, RSMo. §473.340 provides that “any creditor, beneficiary or other person who claims an interest in property which is claimed to be an asset of an estate or which is claimed should be an asset of an estate has standing to file a petition for discovery of assets.”  Thus, it follows that because the State becomes a proper creditor of a decedent Medicaid beneficiary, and that this creditor status survives the death of the beneficiary and any such creditors may properly move for a discovery of assets, then the State, having provided the decedent with benefits could properly move for an accounting and discovery of assets as an interested creditor in the estate.