To determine if you are eligible for Medicaid, you will need to understand the rules for the particular Medicaid benefits that you are applying for. There are income limits and there are limits on the amount of assets that you are allowed to own while qualifying to get Medicaid coverage. Often, for seniors who are trying to get access to Medicaid to pay for the costs of nursing home care, the resource limits are a problem even when the income limits are not. This happens because many people work hard to acquire money and property over the course of their life.
All of this money and property could potentially be lost if you need to pay for nursing home care out-of-pocket because you aren’t eligible for Medicaid. Nirenstein, Horowitz & Associates can try to help you ensure that this does not happen and that you keep as many assets safe as possible. We can do this by helping you to protect your assets and become eligible for Medicaid when you need it.
Because Medicaid is means-tested and has limits on resources, there are concerns that people who are trying to qualify for Medicaid will just give away their money and property right before they go into a nursing home and need costly care. To discourage this, a five-year look back rule is in place.
The five-year look back rule looks back at transactions within the five years from the time that you need Medicaid benefits. If you made a transfer of money or property as a gift or sold money or property for much less than it was valued at, this could temporarily disqualify you from coverage. The length of the disqualification is determined by the value of transferred assets divided by average nursing home care costs in your area. The larger the value of the transferred assets, the longer the suspension.
The Medicaid planning process does involve the transfer of assets in most situations, which means that it is far better for you to talk with Nirenstein, Horowitz & Associates and begin this process as early as you can. Don’t wait until your need for nursing home care is imminent, as it may be too late at that point to successfully shield all of you assets. Even if you do need care soon, though, it is still a good idea to talk to a lawyer and see how much of your wealth you actually can protect.
Medicaid planning often involves the transfer of your assets into certain types of trusts that are designed to protect those assets from being lost in case you need to pay for nursing home care. Since Medicaid normally won’t pay for nursing home care until you have spent down your assets and impoverished yourself, Medicaid planning involves structuring asset ownership so the assets held within the trust are not countable assets for determining Medicaid eligibility.
An attorney can provide you with assistance in determining if Medicaid planning is necessary, and if it is possible for you, and can assist you with understanding how an asset protection trust could work to help with the Medicaid planning process.
Medicaid planning is not just important to ensure you can qualify for coverage when you need care, but is also vital to protect your heirs or beneficiaries from the loss of their inheritance. If you receive Medicaid benefits when you are 55 or older and/or if you receive Medicaid benefits for long-term care services, federal law says that the state Medicaid program which provided you with benefits can try to recover the value of the benefits from your estate.
In other words, Medicaid can make claims on your estate during the probate process to try to take assets, including property under certain circumstances, so the state can be repaid for money spent on you care. There are strict rules for Medicaid estate recovery, but it still often leads to the loss of important assets which should be passed down to the next generation.
Medicaid attorneys can help to protect you from losing your wealth to Medicaid estate recovery. Nirenstein, Horowitz & Associates will work with you to keep your assets safe both during your life and after your death. Give us a call at 860-548-1000 to find out more about how elder law and Medicaid attorneys can assist you.