Study: Estate Law Reform Critically Needed in Kansas

Published November 1, 2005

As aging Americans increasingly require long-term care, estate law has become more critical than ever before … and no less complicated. New Kansas legislation requires a thorough examination of estate recovery in that state, a study from the Flint Hills Center for Public Policy finds.

The authors of the study, Roger Van Etten and Brian Vazquez, report that a 2004 law enacted in Kansas, “Expanded Definition of a Probate Estate” (S.B. 272), “altered the legal landscape and created further need for a substantive resource” outlining the rules and regulations that apply to estate recovery in the state. S.B. 272 allows the state to make new claims on assets of individuals who received taxpayer-funded medical assistance.

The study, published in September, notes there is little federal guidance on expanded definition of estates and “Kansas has no applicable case law on expanded probate definition to guide the Kansas practitioner.” The study finds the Kansas law “allowed a state to voluntarily adopt a definition for a decedent’s estate that was broader than the state’s normal definition. Such an expanded definition would only apply to individuals who had received medical assistance. S.B. 272 allowed Kansas to adopt an expanded definition of an estate for use in medical assistance recoveries. … If an individual applies for or receives medical assistance, that individual has consented to a claim for medical assistance being used against the individual’s property.”

Assets Sheltered, Care Expected

“The potential recovery from medical assistance liens is significant,” the authors write. “In July 2004, the Estate Recovery Unit (ERU) received a data report on the number of Medicaid beneficiaries in Kansas who were in a long-term care facility; had been in such facility for more than 6 months; and owned real property. The report identified 1,011 recipients who fit the search criteria. Significantly, the total property value of the real property exceeded $42 million.”

The Flint Hills report, “Estate Recovery After SB 272,” is part four of a four-volume primer on estate recovery in Kansas. It includes information the researchers gathered in their roles as co-administrators of the Estate Recovery Program for the state.

The four volumes of the “Kansas Estate Recovery Primer” examine the history of estate recovery in the United States, look at six decades of estate recovery law in Kansas, and explain the details of S.B. 272, which Van Etten co-authored and for which Vazquez wrote some sections.

“This primer comes at a crucial time,” said Matthew Hisrich, director of consumer-driven health care policy for the Flint Hills Center. “With the recent announcement of a special joint legislative committee that intends to make Medicaid reform recommendations for the 2006 legislature, a full understanding of existing estate recovery laws is vital for all those affected by potential changes.”

Susan Konig ([email protected]) is managing editor of Health Care News.

For more information …

The four volumes of the “Kansas Estate Recovery Primer” are available online at