This is the second post in a two-part series. Click to read part one.
In our last article we talked about ways a single person can protect assets and obtain Medicaid coverage for long-term care without expending all of her assets.
Now let’s discuss how a similar process can work for a married couple when one of them is institutionalized and requires continuous care.
Frank has cared for his wife Karen for a good number of years since a disabling disease left her unable to care for herself. Today her condition has worsened. Frank is unable to provide the around-the-clock care she now needs and a nursing home is the last option. In this hypothetical but common example, Frank has great concerns about the cost of Karen’s care and believes that Medicaid will not begin paying for Karen’s care until most of their assets are gone. Frank has worked many years to accumulate some savings and he would like to be able to preserve as much as he can to support himself.
Does Frank have any options? Yes, he does. First, he needs to consult with an elder law attorney that is highly experienced in these situations. We have that experience at the Stinson Law Firm. We can work quickly to expedite the proper planning to obtain assistance with payments to the nursing home while still leaving him funds to live.
One solution is to invest in exempt assets.
Here is a simple example. Let’s assume Karen goes to a nursing home. Karen and Frank together have $200,000 in countable assets (which includes cash, stocks and bonds) under Medicaid rules plus his house and car.
A common way of thinking among many is that you would first have to spend down assets before Medicaid help begins. This is not true.
There is always the worry that with the exorbitant cost of nursing home care there won’t be enough left to take care of Frank who is still able to live at home. Medicaid does allow Frank to keep the house and the car and they don’t count as far as qualifying Karen for the nursing home.
The fact is: Working together, we can arrange to protect all of the $200,000 countable resources for Frank. Medicaid would “allocate” $100,000 of Frank and Karen’s assets to Frank. Frank can then invest the other $100,000 in assets that do not count under the Medicaid program. For example, Frank could purchase an annuity that meets precise criteria required by Medicaid. The annuity payments would be payable to Frank within a term no greater than Frank’s life expectancy. The excess resources of $100,000, by investing them in those that do not count, protects the entire marital estate for Frank.
Frank ends up with the house and car, his own $100,000 and collects on the annuity with a value equal to the other $100,000 over a period of time.
Please note that this is an extremely simple fact scenario. One should never try to make these arrangements without the help of a competent elder law attorney. There are many other details and variables too lengthy and complex to go into this article.
The best scenario is to plan ahead, before anyone is disabled and has to be housed in a nursing home or is otherwise in need of long-term care. Still, I stress, if you have a loved one who needs long-term care, it’s not too late to plan.
IT IS IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND that all of the aforementioned scenarios are generalities. No two cases are alike. For this reason it is important to schedule a visit with the Stinson Law Firm so that we can discuss your specific case. We caution you against trying to do any of the above transactions without the help of a qualified elder law attorney. Do it wrong and it could result in very severe penalties.
Many times, we can help you preserve many of the family assets while expediting the payment of Medicaid benefits for a person in need of services.
Our goal at the Stinson Law Firm is to secure your present and future and leave you with the peace of mind you deserve. Contact us today.
Jeff is Certified as an Elder Law Attorney (CELA) by the National Elder Law Foundation, a distinction held by only a handful of lawyers in Indiana. For almost 20 years, he has focused on elder law, estate planning, long-term care planning, Medicaid planning, Veterans Affairs benefits planning, special needs planning, guardianships, and estate administration.