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DONALD HUDSON v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (04/25/86)

decided: April 25, 1986.

DONALD HUDSON, EXECUTOR OF THE ESTATE OF HELEN FEELEY, PETITIONER
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WELFARE, RESPONDENT



Appeal from the Order of the Department of Public Welfare in the case of In Re: Appeal of: Estate of Helen Feeley, Case No. 172859.

COUNSEL

Frank J. Skokoski, for petitioner.

Roger T. Margolis, Assistant Counsel, with him, John Kane, Counsel, for respondent.

President Judge Crumlish, Jr., Judge Colins, and Senior Judge Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Senior Judge Barbieri.

Author: Barbieri

[ 96 Pa. Commw. Page 573]

Donald Hudson, Executor of the Estate of Helen Feeley, filed a petition for review with this Court upon the adverse determination of the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) regarding the application filed by Donald Hudson on behalf of Miss Feeley prior to her death for medical assistance for her nursing home care and the denial of DPW's Executive Deputy Secretary of Hudson's request for reconsideration.

The date of the original application for medical assistance does not appear in the record. The Luzerne County Assistance Office (CAO) issued a notice to applicant

[ 96 Pa. Commw. Page 574]

    dated December 9, 1983 notifying Miss Feeley that her application had been denied pursuant to 55 Pa. Code § 177.83(b)(2)(v) which provides that persons having assets with a combined value in excess of $1500 shall be ineligible for medical assistance. The notice advised the applicant that the CAO had learned of the existence of financial resources totaling $66,919.85 available to Miss Feeley and that, therefore, the CAO had determined that she was ineligible to receive medical assistance.

Petitioner requested a hearing which request was forwarded to DPW's Office of Hearings and Appeals. A fair hearing as prescribed under DPW regulations, 55 Pa. Code §§ 275.1-275.4, was held before Hearing Officer Kaufman on March 2, 1984.*fn1 The record does not contain a transcript of those proceedings. The hearing officer made only two findings: that the CAO had determined Miss Feeley ineligible for medical assistance because she had assets in excess of $1500 which determination she had appealed, and that Miss Feeley's assets amounted to $66,920 and were held in trust. In his discussion, the hearing officer recited the respective positions of the applicant, as set forth by Petitioner, and of the CAO with regard to the trust assets and their availability to Miss Feeley to pay for her nursing home care. The hearing officer then stated that, because he found the matter complicated, he would frame an order to implement the legal advice received from DPW's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) on the matter. The order sustained the appeal in part and denied the appeal in part, contingent upon the resolution of certain factual questions, thus illustrating the hearing officer's continuing confusion.

[ 96 Pa. Commw. Page 575]

The hearing officer's confusion is understandable. The facts as we have been able to discern them from a less-than-complete record plus the contents of certain documents, attached to the briefs but not, as far as we know, part of the record, present a rather confusing picture. Only one of four important documents is included in the record. That document, entitled an "Agreement," records a conveyance in trust from Helen Feeley to Donald Hudson, Robert Feeley and Eileen Feeley, "successor trustees of the Andrew J. and Minnie E. Feeley Trust." Miss Feeley conveyed a one-fifth share, approximately $33,000, of the proceeds from the sale of the trust real estate of the Andrew J. and Minnie E. Feeley Trust. The agreement provided that Helen Feeley was to receive life interest in the interest income arising from the trust principal and that, upon her death, the trustees were to distribute the principal and any accumulated but unpaid income in accordance with the terms of the Andrew J. and Minnie E. Feeley Trust, i.e. one-half in equal shares to Robert Feeley and Betty Ann Feeley and one-half to Donald Hudson.

Three additional documents, purporting to be the Andrew J. and Minnie E. Feeley Trust, a Declaration of Intention comprised of numbered paragraphs explaining the intent of Andrew J. and Minnie E. Feeley with regard to certain of the trust provisions, and a deed from James E. Feeley conveying certain property in trust to Minnie E. Feeley, John P. Feeley and Marie E. Feeley, important to the resolution of the issues in this case, were included by Petitioner in his reproduced record but are not part of the original record certified to this Court. Thus, the information which follows regarding the content of those documents is presented for the sole purpose of aiding the reader in interpreting the adjudications of the hearing officer, the Office of Hearings and Appeals, and DPW's Executive Deputy Secretary

[ 96 Pa. Commw. Page 576]

    in this case, to be outlined in the ensuing paragraphs.

The document purporting to be the Andrew J. and Minnie E. Feeley Trust indicates that in 1935 Andrew J. Feeley and Minnie E. Feeley, husband and wife, conveyed to Minnie E. Feeley, John P. Feeley and Marie E. Feeley certain property (the Feeley Theatre Building) in Hazleton, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania in trust upon certain terms and conditions. Net income from the property was to be paid to Andrew Feeley for life and, upon his death, to his wife. Upon the deaths of Andrew J. Feeley and Minnie E. Feeley, their sons, John P. Feeley and James Feeley, were each to receive one-fifth of the fee simple title to the property, as was their daughter, Marie E. Feeley. Two other daughters, Helen Feeley and Ethel Clark, were each to receive life interest in the net income from one-fifth of the corpus of the real estate. Paragraph (c) of the Trust document gave the trustees the power to impair by mortgage or judgment the entire corpus of the trust to the extent of $1,000 for the benefit of Helen Feeley or Ethel Clark whenever necessary for ...


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