Medicaid Estate Recovery program is the system that tries to collect sums expended by the government for care in a nursing home after a patient has passed away. It is supposed to be a program that can only enforce its rights (in Texas) through a probate proceeding for the deceased Medicaid recipient. It is also supposed to be a program that does not collect where there is a surviving spouse or in certain other family circumstances involving disability or impoverishment.
However, like people who try to collect old credit card debt that is not collectible in the courts, Medicaid Estate Recovery makes it look as though the responsible party for a deceased Medicaid patient has an obligation to pay the state back. They send out information requests and bills that all look like the right and proper thing to do is simply to write them a check. Many people do simply write them a check. Often the funds come out of insurance proceeds, or joint accounts held with the decedent, or funds paid over under a payable on death clause on a bank or brokerage account.
The State will happily accept all of the money sent to it as a result of MERP forms being sent out. Of course, none of the things mentioned above are actually properties subject to probate and none of them are subject to MERP claims. It is not that the MERP form is misleading in any way, it is simply that the MERP agency has no obligation to tell the family when they do not have to pay. The best way to avoid a MERP claim is to begin with a well formulated Medicaid Eligibility plan from an Elder Law Attorney. But no one should write a check to MERP without evaluation and advice from an attorney who knows Medicaid law.