Ohio probate court judges and attorneys are nearing completion of a yearlong review of probate court forms that should make it easier for the public to use in reaching more expedient case resolutions.
The forms — some new, some revised — concern Medicaid estate recovery, property certificates of transfer, foreign adoptions, disinterment applications and other probate matters.
A list of the proposed forms is available on the Ohio Supreme Court website, www.supremecourt.ohio.gov. To view the forms, type in “Rule Amendments” in the search box in the upper-right corner and click on the first link that appears.
The high court is accepting public comments on the proposed forms until June 11, court officials said.
Former Summit County Probate Judge Todd McKenney, who has been working on the forms committee chaired by current Stark County Probate Judge Dixie Park, said the finished project will be “a great service to the public.”
“It enables lawyers, along with people who go into the court wanting to get a certain process going, to know there’s a form where you can check off boxes and just make it easier on yourself than trying to do this all on your own from reading the law,” McKenney said.
George Wertz, chief magistrate of Summit County Probate Court, said one of the more significant changes in clarifying the forms involves the “Certificate of Notice to Administrator of Medicaid Estate Recovery.”
“If somebody is in a nursing home and Medicaid is picking up the bill, or they’re in assisted living and Medicaid’s picking up the bill, or even if they’re on Passport Services and Medicaid’s picking up the bill, when they die, the state of Ohio has a right to be paid back the money that they paid out for that person, to the extent that there is money in the estate,” Wertz said.
“The law has been on the books for quite a while now, so it’s just a way for the state hopefully recouping some of the money they paid out for Medicaid recipients,” he said.
Under the previous form, the concerned attorney would file such a form in probate court, and the court would make the notice to Medicaid.
Now the concerned party would file directly to Medicaid and, in a second procedure, would simply file a certificate of notice in probate court informing the court that the filing was done.
“It’s an important form,” Wertz said.
A problem some do not realize, he said, can occur if the form is not sent to Medicaid, because then the statute of limitations would not start to run against the estate for estate recovery.
“So, for instance, maybe through some other means Medicaid gets wind of the fact that the person died and has assets. Then the person who distributes all those assets without notifying Medicaid has a big problem,” Wertz said.
Personal liability for the money that could be owed to Medicaid, sometimes tens of thousands of dollars, would be a possibility, he said.
One of the 10 proposed new forms involves the “Application for Order to Disinter Remains.”
McKenney explained: “You can get into a situation where maybe the family lives somewhere else and somebody comes up here to work and was buried, so there’s a desire by the family to have everybody together in the same family plot.
“This is not crime scene investigators,” he said. “It’s just usually a family wanting to move someone who has been buried, and so you need an order from the court to the cemetery to permit someone to remove the remains and to show they were reinterred somewhere else.”
In November 2011, when McKenney was reviewing his responsibilities on his first day on the job as head of Summit probate court, he said he was somewhat surprised when a couple came in and asked for a disinterment action.
Summit had a good form for disinterment, he said, but the new forms will be standardized for use in such actions in all 88 Ohio counties.
McKenney said changes in the probate forms were initiated to conform to laws the Ohio Legislature passed in January 2012 and March 2012.
Comments on the forms should be submitted in writing to: John VanNorman, Policy and Research Council, Ohio Supreme Court, 65 S. Front St., Seventh Floor, Columbus, OH 43215, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Probate forms also can be accessed easily on the Summit County Probate Court website at http://summitohioprobate.com. Look for the “Forms” link on the left side of the site.