An Ohio appeals court rules that assets held in an irrevocable trust are available to a Medicaid applicant because the trustee has the discretion to make payments of trust principal for the applicant’s benefit. Balanda v. Ohio Dept. of Job (2008-Ohio-1946, April 24, 2008).
After living in a nursing home for three years, Eleanor Balanda applied for Medicaid in December 2004. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services denied her application due to excess resources. In February 2005, Eleanor’s husband, Vincent, created an irrevocable trust and subsequently transferred $40,800 into it. In December 2005, Eleanor again applied for Medicaid and the Department again denied her application, this time holding that the assets in the trust were available because the trust gave the trustee discretion to distribute principal to or for the benefit of either Eleanor or Vincent. Eleanor appealed.
The Court of Appeals of Ohio affirms the Department’s decision. The court points out that Ohio law considers a trust an available asset “[i]f there are any circumstances under which payment from [an irrevocable] trust could be made to or for the benefit of the applicant/recipient.” Ohio Admin.Code 5101:1-39-27.1(C)(2)(c)(i). Since, in this case, the trustee has the discretion to distribute funds to or for the benefit of Eleanor or Vincent, the court finds that the trust assets were correctly counted as an available resource.
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