The DHHS Estate Recovery Unit (ERU) recovers funds from individuals and/or their estate following their death who have received certain services through DHHS, so DHHS can continue to provide assistance to the citizens of NH.
The Estate Recovery Unit (ERU) is responsible for recovering funds from people and/or their estates if they have received certain support services from DHHS, so that DHHS may continue to help other individuals in need of services.
Both federal and state laws require DHHS to recover money that has been provided to individuals on state assistance. The funds collected by the ERU are split among the county, state, and federal governments, depending on the type of assistance the person received.
What DHHS assistance programs does the Estate Recovery Unit recover funds for?
- Old Age Assistance (OAA)
- Aid to the Needy Blind (ANB)
- Aid to the Permanently and Totally Disabled (APTD)
- Medicaid for Employed Adults with Disabilities (MEAD)
- Granite Advantage (GA) (formerly called New Hampshire Health Protection Program (NHHPP))
- Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (BCCP) Medical
What is a lien?
A lien is a document filed with the county Registry of Deeds. This alerts anyone who wants to buy your house or land that you have a debt against the property that must be paid when the home is transferred, sold, or refinanced.
Will the State file a lien on my house?
If you receive OAA, ANB, or APTD cash assistance, the State will file a lien on your home or land to get paid back for this assistance.
If you live in a nursing home and your house or land is not being lived in by your spouse, minor or disabled child(ren), or sibling with an equity interest, the State will file a lien to get paid back for the OAA, ANB, BCCP, MEAD, or APTD medical assistance (Medicaid) you received after age 55.
The State will not file a lien without first notifying you of its intent and giving you an opportunity for a hearing.
If the State files a lien on my house, what will happen?
When the State files a lien on your house, it does not mean that you must move or sell your home, or that the State owns or wants to own your house. What is does mean is that when you sell, transfer, or refinance the property, the State will collect on the lien that was placed on your house or land to repay assistance provided to you.
What if I own my property with other people?
If you receive OAA, ANB, or APTD cash assistance and the property is jointly owned with your spouse, the State will collect on the full amount of the lien, if the money from the sale is enough to pay it off.
If the property is jointly owned with someone other than your spouse, the State will collect on the lien for cash assistance only up to the amount that equals your share of the ownership of the property.
If you receive OAA, ANB, MEAD, BCCP, GA, or APTD medical assistance and the property is jointly owned, the State will collect on the lien only up to the amount that equals your share of the ownership of the property.
I am no longer on assistance. How can I get rid of the lien on my property?
You can make voluntary payment to the State in an amount equal to the assistance provided. Upon receipt of payment, the State will remove the lien.
Even if you no longer receive assistance, the State will only act upon the lien if you sell, transfer, or refinance your property, or if you pass away.
What is an estate claim?
An estate is all of the property (such as cash, savings, stocks, land, etc.) owned by a person at the time of death. For the purpose of recovery of medical assistance, your estate includes both assets that pass through probate and assets that pass outside of the probate process. Your estate includes property held solely or jointly with others on the date of death. This can include assets held in joint tenancy, such as life estates and in living trusts.
If you owe money to creditors (like the State) when you die, the creditors can file a claim against your estate to get paid back the money owed to them.
Through the probate process, the court makes sure that all debts or claims file against the estate are paid, and, after debts are paid, any remaining assets go to the proper people. For assets passing outside the probate process, the Department will send a notice of its claim to the surviving owners.
Will the State file a claim against my estate?
When the probate process is started for someone who received cash or medical assistance, the State may file a claim against the estate for repayment of the assistance received.
The State will file a claim against your estate if you received OAA, ANB, or APTD cash assistance, or any OAA, ANB, MEAD, BCCP, GA, or APTD medical assistance you recived after age 55, if you are unmarried or widowed at the time of your death and do not have any minor or disabled children.
In most cases, there is no recovery for Medical Assistance prior to the age of 55.
What if I have a will that says my property goes to someone other than the State?
Probate law states that creditors, such as the State, must be paid before any directions in a will are followed. If any assets remain after paying all debts against the estate, the court will follow the directions of the will and allow assets to be given to the people named in the will.
Are there any times when my estate will not have to repay the State?
All cash assistance must be repaid to the State. For medical assistance, in most cases, the State will file a claim for medical assistance if you are over the age of 55 and you do not have a surviving spouse, or minor or disabled child(red). Also, if repayment of medical assistance received would cause the family to experience a hardship, repayments are sometimes waived. Your family and/or the administrator of your estate can apply for a hardship waiver and have the debt forgiven, if the hardship criteria are met.
The State did not file a lien; can it still file a claim against my estate?
Yes. There are times when the Department does not have the authority to place a lien, but may file a claim. Additionally, because a lot can happen between application for assistance and death, there will be situations where a lien is not filed, but an estate claim is appropriate.
What if my estate does not have enough funds to repay the State?
The State will collect on the funds that are available in your estate even if there is not enough to pay the claim in full. Once your estate is properly probated and closed, any remaining debt for OAA, ANB, or APTD cash assistance can be collected from your spouse's estate when they die. The State will not collect from your spouse's estate when they die for any remaining debt for OAA, ANB, MEAD, BCCP, GA, or APTD medical assistance.
Outstanding debts for cash or medical assistance after your probate estate is closed will remaining outstanding debts of your estate. If your probate estate is reopened, the State will continue to pursue the balance of its claim at that time.