It’s never too soon to think about how you are going to pay for nursing home or assisted living care if the need arises one day for you or your spouse. In fact, the sooner you plan for this possibility, the more options there will be available to you. One such option could be applying for Medicaid to pay for some or all of your nursing home care.
What Is Medicaid?
You might already know that Medicaid is a government medical assistance program for low-income Americans. If you’ve never been eligible for Medicaid, you might think you won’t be eligible now, and you’re probably right. However, as one of the only government programs that will pay for nursing home care—Medicare does not—it’s worth finding out if you could become eligible through Medicaid planning.
Taking Advantage of a Medicaid Trust
If your monthly income and nonexempt assets are above a certain amount, you will not qualify for Medicaid. Spending down or giving away your money to get below the cutoff is not advisable because then your money is gone. However, you may be able to transfer assets into a trust that you cannot access directly. The trustee must be someone in whom you have complete confidence, as that person will have control of the funds.
Be Aware of the Look-Back Period
The key to successful Medicaid planning is doing it far in advance of needing a nursing home. If the Medicaid trust was set up more than five years ago, you shouldn’t have a problem qualifying for Medicaid. However, in New York—and every other state except California—there is a five-year look-back period. This means that if you spent, gave away, or funded a trust with the bulk of your assets for the purpose of qualifying for Medicaid in the last five years, that money will be counted in your assets, and you will not qualify for Medicaid when you need it most. There are exceptions to the five-year look-back for transfers of funds to a spouse, disabled child, adult children caregivers, and for paying off debt, but these exceptions are difficult to implement without the help of an estate planning attorney.
Medicaid Planning Is Complicated—Talk to Our Attorneys
Qualifying for Medicaid could be the key to being able to afford quality nursing home care while preserving hard-earned assets for the healthy spouse and adult children, but it requires thoughtful expert planning. Talk to our elder law and Medicaid planning team today to get started. You may not want to think about needing a nursing home yet, but life is unpredictable, so don’t put this important step off any longer.