Medicaid Planning: Transferring Assets
Getting old and getting sick can place an enormous strain on families. With nursing home costs in New York often exceeding $12,000 a month, many elderly patients who need nursing home care simply cannot afford it. Some turn to their adult children to care for them at home while juggling their work and other family relationships. Often, these children have spent thousands of dollars of their own resources to support their parents before the task becomes too difficult, forcing them to turn to a nursing home for their parents’ care.
Aging parents face the prospect of nursing home care quickly eating through their life savings, forcing them in a few short months into poverty and onto Medicaid for years to come. In the meantime, their adult children — who spent so much of their own lives and resources for their parents’ care — are left with nothing.
There are about one and a half million U.S. nursing home beds in 16,000 nursing homes. About five percent of seniors aged 65 are in nursing homes and those percentages increase to fifty percent for seniors 95 and older.
The very wealthy can usually pay for nursing home care out of pocket. Others may have to find methods for protecting their assets from being consumed by nursing home costs before Medicaid benefits kick in.
Some of these methods include:
- Distributing value of the estate into exempt assets. Some assets, like a home and car, do not always count towards the value of the estate in determining net worth by Medicaid. Trading in an old car, buying a new one, renovating or improving a house, are examples of how to transfer assets into exempt property to qualify sooner for Medicaid.
- Protecting the home as an exempt property. A home is exempt if certain family members are still living in it, such as a spouse, a minor or disabled child, or a child who took care of the institutionalized parent at home and delayed the need for nursing home care.
- Strategically gifting property. Since there is a five-year look-back period for Medicaid eligibility, advance planning is essential. There is only a one-month look-back period for home care, allowing transfers to family only a month in advance of the need for home care.
Medicaid planners consider many complex factors to determine the best strategic action for each person’s estate. Contact an experienced Medicaid planning attorney to learn about your options, also feel free to visit our Medicaid frequently asked questions page.