Decided : December 19, 1977.
IN THE MATTER OF THE ESTATE OF NIKITA BLACK, A MINOR
On appeal from the Essex County Court, Probate Division, whose opinion is reported at 145 N.J. Super. 565 (1976).
Lynch, Bischoff and Kole.
[160 NJSuper Page 124]
This is an appeal and cross-appeal from a decision reported at 145 N.J. Super. 565 (Cty. Ct. 1976), holding that a welfare board was entitled to repayment of welfare funds out of an infant welfare recipient's personal injury recovery preserved in a trust fund. The trial judge held that the welfare board was entitled to reimbursement of assistance received by the child from the day her mother executed in blank an "agreement to repay" to date, although the standard agreement form was not signed until approximately eight months after receipt and deposit of the infant's trust fund.
The decision is reversed substantially for the reasons stated in In the Matter of Doughty , decided today, and reported at 160 N.J. Super. 126. An agreement to repay pursuant
[160 NJSuper Page 125]
to N.J.S.A. 44:10-4(a) cannot be executed against such a preexisting trust fund to reimburse the welfare board. Therefore, the agreement does not entitle the welfare board to any reimbursement from the trust fund for assistance granted before receipt of the fund, or after its receipt and knowledge thereof. However, such a trust fund may be taken into consideration as a possible resource when determining the child's need for future welfare.
Although not argued at the trial level, on cross-appeal Ms. Black asks this court to hold that in all cases personal injury recoveries of minors should be excluded from the reach of N.J.S.A. 44:10-4(a). The argument was raised and rejected in Francis v. Harris , 100 N.J. Super. 313 (Law Div.), aff'd o.b. 103 N.J. Super. 440 (App. Div. 1968), certif. den. 53 N.J. 227 (1969). A change in statutory policy is for the Legislature and not the courts. In this regard it should be noted that if a welfare board seeks reimbursement from a trust fund on the basis of a valid agreement to repay, or denies future assistance on the basis of the existence of such a fund, the release of any monies for welfare payment or the child's necessities of life is subject to the court's approval. N.J.S.A. 3A:7-14.1.
Reversed in accordance with this opinion.*fn1