Attorney Thomas B. Burton answers the following question: "Father Died - Will Hospital Put Lien on House?"
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Hello, I'm Attorney Thomas Burton and welcome back to our popular Question and Answer Series.
Today's question comes from Beloit, Wisconsin and the viewer asks the following - "Father died, owes for hospital and nursing home, will they put a lien on the house? Father died and as a result the house is being left to all three sons but they agree one son can have it. House is under $50,000. Do they need to go to probate to put it in the son's name? The father also has about a $4,000 nursing home bill and about a $9,000 hospital bill. Medicaid was never involved. Can they put a lien on the house or are the bills not their responsibility? If they are and a lien is put on the house, is there a time limit when that lien will expire?"
Okay, so excellent question and I can tell from your question that there's a lot going on here and you're aware of some of the potential creditor issues you could be facing. If you go through the probate court process with the house, you will need to publish notice to creditors and this would give the creditors the statutory period to file their claim against the estate. The good thing about that notice to creditors period is if a creditor doesn't file a claim by the date set by the probate registrar, then the claim is barred after that point. You may want to do this because doing the probate court process with the notice to creditors, gives them a certain amount of time to file their claims and then, if they do not, the claim's extinguished. However, you mentioned that $50,000, that the house is worth less than $50,000, in Wisconsin the small estate limit is $50,000 and if you have assets, total probate assets, so the total of all the assets that would be subject to probate court process are less than $50,000, then you can potentially transfer those assets using a small estate method which we call transfer by affidavit in Wisconsin. So probate court assets include all assets that were titled in the individual's name and don't have a beneficiary designation. So if they had an IRA, a retirement account but it named three beneficiaries and that already paid out non-probate, that's not included in the $50,000 limit but let's say, they had a bank account in their own name and this house. Well then both the bank account and the house have to be worth less than $50,000 to use the small estate transfer by affidavit method. However, if you use this method, the recipient of the property swears you fill out that affidavit, swearing you will still pay the debt to the estate in the order of priority, established under Wisconsin statute 859.25.
I suggest you look at Wisconsin statute 859.25, you can google that and that will give you the order of priority of the debts and how they're paid. The good news, you mentioned is that if Medicaid did not provide any assistance to your father, they should not have a claim against the estate. However, if you use that transfer by affidavit method, you do need to send notice to Medicaid to ensure they are aware you're planning to transfer the assets that way and that would give them the notice, if they did have a claim to file it. Same with the probate court action, you send notice to Medicaid, they check their files to make sure they have no claim against the estate.
So I would work with a qualified probate attorney in your area to figure out the best method to transfer the house to the heirs and give notice to creditors and that attorney will also be able to give you even better advice based on the facts and that can be a private conversation between you and the attorney, protected by attorney-client confidentiality.
So you put some of the facts here but there's even more I would want to talk with, if you were meeting with me, I would want to talk with you in private and then figure out a plan and discuss your best options for moving forward.
So again I'm sorry to hear about the passing of your father. It looks like you have a good grasp of the situation here and how you need to be aware of these issues dealing with creditors and I wish you best of luck moving forward.
So thank you for asking and thank you to the viewers for watching and if this question and answer has been helpful to you, please consider giving this video a LIKE so that others who are going through a similar situation, can see and benefit from this information as well.
Thanks for watching and we'll see you next time.
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