Well, generally, a decedent’s debts become obligations of his estate. Some of the types of debt that comes up in probate estates won’t surprise you: secured debt (mortgage, car note), funeral expenses, estate administration expenses, general unsecured debt (credit cards, medical bills, etc.). And in some cases, if the decedent received Medicaid benefits during his life, the Medicaid Estate Recovery Program may make a claim for the value of care.
But did you know that if the decedent was incarcerated, the state of Texas can bring a claim against his estate for the cost of his confinement? Yes, that’s right: if you’re a guest at the gray bar hotel, in some circumstances, the state may pass the tab along to your estate.
There are a few important limitations on the state’s ability to bring such a claim. First, the state may not enforce a claim if the inmate was survived by a spouse, dependent, or disabled child. Second, and of note for estate planning, only the inmate’s probate estate is subject to such claims.
Just as a person anticipating future Medicaid need may wish to estate plan with the intent to minimize which assets pass subject to probate, similar planning may be appropriate when the client or a member of the client’s family is incarcerated.