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Daughter Who Took Mother’s Money May Owe Nursing Bills

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Betty Budd spent the last years of her life at Presbyterian Medical Center, a nursing home in Oakmont, Pennsylvania. When she died she owed $96,000 to the facility, and only had $28,000 left in her estate. After collecting that amount, the nursing home filed suit against Ms. Budd’s daughter Elizabeth.

Using a power of attorney, Elizabeth Budd had handled her mother’s finances for the entire time she resided in the nursing home. At one point, with the unpaid bill mounting rapidly, the facility contacted Elizabeth Budd about the delinquency. She insisted that the money was almost gone, and promised that she would spend down the remaining money and make an application with the state Medicaid agency.

Elizabeth Budd never did apply for Medicaid for her mother. If she had her mother would not have qualified. She still had too much money available, even at the time of her death—generally speaking, single Medicaid applicants may not have more than $2,000 in available resources. Even if Elizabeth Budd had simply paid a portion of the nursing home bill her mother would not have qualified if, as the nursing home suspected, Elizabeth Budd had taken $100,000 of her mother’s money and put it into an account in her own name.

The nursing home sued Elizabeth Budd after her mother’s death. Their lawsuit made four different allegations against her. First, it charged that she had agreed to spend down the money and make a Medicaid application, and that she had breached her contract. Second, it alleged that she had defrauded the nursing home by misrepresenting her intentions. Third, the nursing home argued that Elizabeth Budd had fraudulently conveyed her mother’s property to avoid her creditors. Finally, the facility claimed that Elizabeth Budd had a duty to use her own funds to support her ailing and indigent mother.

The Pennsylvania Superior Court dismissed the nursing home’s claims for breach of contract, fraud and fraudulent conveyance. It found that any agreement Elizabeth Budd entered into with the nursing home was really between the home and her mother, and that Elizabeth Budd could not defraud the nursing home because she did not personally owe it any money.

The court did decide, however, that Elizabeth Budd might be liable. Pennsylvania law requires adult children to support their indigent parents, and the court ruled that the nursing home might be able to prove that Elizabeth Budd owed money on her mother’s bill—especially if it appears that the very reason her mother was indigent was that Elizabeth Budd took her money. The case was sent back to the trial court for further proceedings to determine her liability. Presbyterian Medical Center v. Budd, August 29, 2003.

Betty and Elizabeth Budd’s case is in some ways similar to an earlier case reported on in Elder Law Issues. Almost exactly two years ago we described a Connecticut case involving J. Michael Cantore, Jr., who was sued for failing to get Medicaid eligibility for his ward, Diana Kosminer. Because he had been appointed as conservator for Ms. Kosminer, the nursing home brought suit against Mr. Cantore’s bonding company for an unpaid $63,000 nursing home bill. While two cases probably do not amount to a national trend, nursing facilities regularly report problems with getting family members, agents and conservators to properly pay care bills, and at least occasionally must resort to litigation to secure payment.

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Robert B. Fleming


Robert Fleming is a Fellow of both the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. He has been certified as a Specialist in Estate and Trust Law by the State Bar of Arizona‘s Board of Legal Specialization, and he is also a Certified Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation. Robert has a long history of involvement in local, state and national organizations. He is most proud of his instrumental involvement in the Special Needs Alliance, the premier national organization for lawyers dealing with special needs trusts and planning.

Robert has two adult children, two young grandchildren and a wife of over fifty years. He is devoted to all of them. He is also very fond of Rosalind Franklin (his office companion corgi), and his homebound cat Muninn. He just likes people, their pets and their stories.

Elizabeth N.R. Friman


Elizabeth Noble Rollings Friman is a principal and licensed fiduciary at Fleming & Curti, PLC. Elizabeth enjoys estate planning and helping families navigate trust and probate administrations. She is passionate about the fiduciary work that she performs as a trustee, personal representative, guardian, and conservator. Elizabeth works with CPAs, financial professionals, case managers, and medical providers to tailor solutions to complex family challenges. Elizabeth is often called upon to serve as a neutral party so that families can avoid protracted legal conflict. Elizabeth relies on the expertise of her team at Fleming & Curti, and as the Firm approaches its third decade, she is proud of the culture of care and consideration that the Firm embodies. Finding workable solutions to sensitive and complex family challenges is something that Elizabeth and the Fleming & Curti team do well.

Amy F. Matheson


Amy Farrell Matheson has worked as an attorney at Fleming & Curti since 2006. A member of the Southern Arizona Estate Planning Council, she is primarily responsible for estate planning and probate matters.

Amy graduated from Wellesley College with a double major in political science and English. She is an honors graduate of Suffolk University Law School and has been admitted to practice in Arizona, Massachusetts, New York, and the District of Columbia.

Prior to joining Fleming & Curti, Amy worked for American Public Television in Boston, and with the international trade group at White & Case, LLP, in Washington, D.C.

Amy’s husband, Tom, is an astronomer at NOIRLab and the Head of Time Domain Services, whose main project is ANTARES. Sadly, this does not involve actual time travel. Amy’s twin daughters are high school students; Finn, her Irish Red and White Setter, remains a puppy at heart.

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Matthew M. Mansour


Matthew is a law clerk who recently earned his law degree from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. His undergraduate degree is in psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Matthew has had a passion for advocacy in the Tucson community since his time as a law student representative in the Workers’ Rights Clinic. He also has worked in both the Pima County Attorney’s Office and the Pima County Public Defender’s Office. He enjoys playing basketball, caring for his cat, and listening to audiobooks narrated by the authors.