Someone dies and an indigent prison inmate is one of the heirs. The state has a statute that allows (or may even require) recovery of prison-related expenses (medical or otherwise) when the prisoner has access to assets.

  1. What are the ways the inmate can legally prevent prison recovery of the inheritance while still incarcerated and after release?

Note: I realize the answer can vary by state, and at the moment am only trying to get a general idea of viable legal strategies. Simply disclaiming the inheritance seems too easy, For example, I think CA (not the state of interest), can pursue inmate assets up to two years after release.

  1. What type of lawyer and legal specialty is required to competently handle this situation?
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    There are trust strategies that can be crafted to protect inheritance. An attorney specializing in Wills,Estate may be able to look into the strategies. – Legal Research SWAT Sep 28 '17 at 8:07
  • @ Legal Research SWAT - Answer is helpful for preplanning. Is the same type of attorney the best when preplanning is off the table (i.e., the person already died and the inmate is a named heir). – RJo Sep 28 '17 at 18:35
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    As you may know, this site is not for direct legal advice. You are asking something very specific which entails legal research and legal advice. [Break] In general, the scenario could involve several types of law and the market has specialized legal services which may go by several names such as Elder law attorney, Probate law attorney, Wills and Trust Attorney, Estate Planning attorney,Victim law, Criminal Defense, Tax attorney. A key question here is how much is the property worth and how much is the restitution amount ? – Legal Research SWAT Sep 29 '17 at 5:30
  • Technically, it's not "inherited" if it was disclaimed. It may seem easy because it is easy. – Upnorth Sep 29 '17 at 23:30
  • @ Legal Research SWAT - yes, I know it is not for advice. I also know that any advice would absolutely be state specific, and possibly even more local than that. An article about the matter is mulling in my head. That's why type of attorney to zero in on is helpful to know. All that aside, this law.stackexchange site is useful because responses like yours do help narrow/refine the real question, a devilishly hard thing to do. – RJo Oct 1 '17 at 0:35

It would depend on the state, but taking Connecticut as an example, there is nothing legal that can be done. As they say

When a person who owes the state money for the cost of his incarceration inherits property or money, the state's claim is a lien against the inheritance for the total cost of his incarceration or 50% of the inheritance, whichever is less. There is no reduction in this amount. The probate court must accept any lien notice that DOC files and, to the extent the estate has not already been paid out, order the estate distributed accordingly. This provision applies to inheritances within 20 years of the person's release from incarceration.

This article overviews legal strategies that have been used (and their associated cases), which have not been successful, as in this Illinois case of an inheritance that was paid to the state.

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