Most of us know that Medi-Cal is California’s Medicaid program.  Per the Medi-Cal website, Medi-Cal is a “public health insurance program which provides needed health care services for low-income individuals including families with children, seniors, persons with disabilities….”  For those of you who have already experienced this situation, you might agree that it came as quite a surprise when you discovered that upon the death of your family member, Medi-Cal was able to make a claim and assert its right to reimbursement for the value of the Medi-Cal benefits it paid to the family member during his or her life.

Regardless to your surprise, this law exists and it is becoming quite common these days for Medi-Cal to assert a claim against a decedent’s estate.  Distinct and not like any other public assistance type program, Medi-Cal is entitled to recover the value of benefits it paid or conferred upon the family member during his or her life.  It can do this by submitting a claim for reimbursement from the assets of the deceased family member’s estate.  It can even do this against the heirs or beneficiaries who are to receive the deceased person’s assets.  However, the law is complicated and many exceptions apply.  Additionally, this law is ever changing and, in fact, as of the date of this blog (April 27, 2016), there exists pending legislation that would alter the law if approved during the 2015/2016 legislative session.

Though Medi-Cal generally has a right to reimbursement from the deceased person’s estate, there are limitations.  Medi-Cal cannot make a claim until the Medi-Cal recipient dies or, in some instances, Medi-Cal cannot make a claim during the life of the surviving spouse.  Medi-Cal is limited to the fair market value of the decedent’s assets at the time of his or her death minus encumbrances (debt).  Medi-Cal is limited to recovery of only the value of services that were provided on or after the decedent’s 55th birthday (unless services were for long-term care).

The ultimate point is simply this, if you are an executor, trustee, heir, or beneficiary of a deceased person’s estate who received Medi-Cal benefits, make sure you know the law regarding Medi-Cal and its ability to submit a claim for reimbursement for benefit conferred.  Any such person who is faced with the above situation should contact the Chilina Law Firm or another attorney who practices in California in the areas of Public Benefits, Estate Planning, and Trust Administration and Probate for further information.


Authored by Gregory J. Chilina and Co-Authored by Karen J. Chilina

Chilina Law Firm, a Professional Corporation, is a full-service estate planning, probate, trust administration, business law, and real property law firm that provides a wide-range of advising, transactional, and litigation services to its clients from its office located in Atascadero, California. The firm’s attorneys represent individuals and business entities in an assortment of transactional and litigation matters involving estate planning (including trusts, wills, powers of attorney, and medical directives), probate, trust administration, as well as general business law, contracts, corporate governance, land use, and real property. Chilina Law can be contacted by telephone at (805) 538-5038 or by email at or visit the Chilina Law Firm at Chilina Law Firm is based in Atascadero, California and serves North San Luis Obispo County communities, including Santa Margarita, Atascadero, Templeton, Paso Robles, and San Miguel.

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