Agent Who Withdrew Money for Medicaid Planning Purposes Does Not Have to Return Funds

A Pennsylvania court rules that an agent under a power of attorney does not have to return money the agent withdrew from a joint account because the evidence showed the agent removed the money for Medicaid planning purposes. In re Estate of Hirnyk (Pa. Super. Ct., No. 84 WDA 2018, April 16, 2019).

Maria Hirnyk needed assistance with shopping and banking. She appointed someone she met at church, Marjorie Weiblinger, as her agent under a power of attorney. The two women opened a joint bank account with Ms. Hirnyk's money. Ms. Weiblinger withdrew money from the account and placed it in an account in her name.

After Ms. Hirnyk died, her daughter filed a petition, seeking the return of the money Ms. Weiblinger took from Ms. Hirnyk's account. Ms. Weiblinger testified that she removed the money at Ms. Hirnyk's direction for Medicaid planning purposes. The trial court denied the petition for the return of funds. Ms. Hirnyk's estate appealed.

The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirms, holding the evidence shows that Ms. Weiblinger did not engage in self-dealing. According to the court, the evidence showed that "[Ms.] Hirnyk was consistently strong-willed, independent, and always in control of her own decisions," and Ms. Weiblinger credibly testified that she removed the money only in an effort to reduce Ms. Hirnyk's assets for Medicaid eligibility.

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