Q: Can Medicaid take my house? Or anyone else?
I am joint owner of a house in Indiana via a quit claim deed that states "joint tenants with rights of survivorship". The other joint owner who is my grandma is now in a nursing home and has severe dementia. My aunt took power of attorney over her healthcare and has filed a lawsuit against me in my grandma's name, so she can take the house or to try and force me to sell it and split the money with her saying it's to pay for the nursing home which I believe is a lie because my grandmother not only has Medicaid but gets a SSI check every month plus a retirement check. Anyway I know she used to. That should well pay for the nursing home I think. The court is trying to force me to sell the house. What are my legal grounds to stop this? What are the laws that work in my favor for this? Can I win this case since it's my house to and the deed says "joint tenants with rights of survivorship" please help I need legal advice.
A: If the deed is to you and your grandmother as joint tenants with right to survivorship, you own half of the property (the house and lot) and your grandmother owns half of the property. That's called an undivided interest because each of you has equal rights to the entire property. Indiana law gives each of the joint tenants a right to ask a court to "partition" the property, which is apparently what your aunt has done on behalf of your grandmother. After the lawsuit is filed, the court will order the parties to participate in mediation in an attempt to reach a mutually agreeable resolution. If that fails, the court can order the property to be sold, with the proceeds applied to any mortgage, back taxes, etc., and the rest of the proceeds being divided among the parties.
I wouldn't be so quick to assume your aunt is lying about your grandmother needing the money to pay for a nursing home. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if her one-half ownership of the property is prohibiting her from qualifying for Medicaid. If so, she may need to sell the property and "spend down" the proceeds of the sale before Medicaid will pay for a nursing home. Rather than spending a lot of time, effort, and money fighting with your aunt, I'd encourage you to talk to her about seeing an elder law attorney to see if there are ways to preserve some of your grandmother's assets so she doesn't have to spend it all down to qualify for Medicaid. Of course, I can't say what your aunt's true motives are. I'm just encouraging you to see if there are ways you can work with her rather than fight her, if you haven't already done so. Unless there are other facts that you didn't mention, I don't see you winning an attempt to keep the house for yourself by fighting the partition action. Other attorneys may see it differently.
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