Pikula v. Department Of Social Services

138 A.3d 212 (2016)


In 1989, John Pikula, P's father, executed a will containing a testamentary trust for his two daughters: Dorothy McKee and P. When John died in 1991, the trust became effective and the Probate Court appointed a trustee. The trust provided as follows: A. Until P shall die, the trustee shall pay to or spend on behalf of P as much of the net income derived from this trust fund as the trustee may deem advisable to provide properly for P's maintenance and support and may incorporate any income not so distributed into the principal of the fund at the option of the trustee. B. I hereby authorize and empower the trustee in his sole and absolute discretion at any time and from time to time to disburse from the principal for any of the trust estates created under this [will], even to the point of completely exhausting the same, such amount as he may deem advisable to provide adequately and properly for the support and maintenance of the current income beneficiaries thereof, any expenses incurred by reason of illness and disability. In determining the amount of principal to be so disbursed, the trustee shall take into consideration any other income or property which such income beneficiary may have from any other source, and the trustee's discretion shall be conclusive as to the advisability of any such disbursement and the same shall not be questioned by anyone. For all sums so distributed, the trustee shall have full acquittance. P entered a long-term care facility. P applied for financial and medical assistance under Medicaid. The trust value was approximately $169,745.91. D denied the application on the ground that her assets, including the trust, exceeded the relevant asset limits. Upon a hearing, the hearing officer issued a decision upholding the department's denial because the trust was an asset that was available to her and, therefore, her assets exceeded the regulatory limits. P appealed. The trial court rendered judgment dismissing P's appeal, concluding that the hearing officer properly determined that the trust, in this case, was an available asset and that, therefore, P's assets disqualified her from Medicaid eligibility. P appealed and the appeal was transferred to this court. P claims that the testator intended to create a discretionary, supplemental needs trust, the assets of which should not be considered available for Medicaid purposes.