In Florida, if you are already in a nursing home, it may be too late to “give away” your assets and still qualify for Medicaid benefits for nursing home care, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t protect most of your assets and still qualify for Medicaid benefits to pay for the cost of the nursing home care. With the assistance of an elder law attorney experienced in Medicaid planning and nursing home care planning, you can protect substantial assets from nursing home costs that can exceed $80,000 a year.
There are a number of options that can be taken to legally “spenddown” your assets in a way that allows you to preserve most of those assets for your own financial support, or the support of other family members, and still qualify for Medicaid benefits to pay for nursing home costs. However, you must be very careful to follow the complex Medicaid laws and rules. There are many pitfalls that can result in a potentially long penalty period that could cost you and your family tens of thousands of dollars in nursing home costs that could otherwise be avoided.
Eligibility for Medicaid benefits to pay for nursing home costs is based on meeting two financial criteria (there also is a medical needs criteria, but if you already are in a nursing home, you very probably have met that criteria). The first is the income test and the second is the asset test.
The income test requires that your income not exceed the amount allowable for Medicaid eligibility. If your income is above the allowable amount (for 2012 that is $2,094 per month), you must establish and maintain a Qualified Income Trust(“QIT”), sometimes called a “Miller Trust.” With a QIT in place and operating properly, you can qualify for Medicaid benefits to pay for nursing home costs without regard to the level of your income.
The asset testrequires that your “countable” assets be less than $2,000. (If you are married, your spouse can have countable assets up to the allowable spousal resource (for 2012 that is $113,694).) Some assets are not “countable.” Other assets can be turned into a stream of income that will effectively convert a countable asset to income and eliminate it from consideration in determining your eligibility for Medicaid benefits to pay the costs of nursing home care.
Often there are countable assets that can be converted to “noncountable” assets. Your noncountable assets are not included in determining whether you have met the requirements of the asset test to qualify for Medicaid benefits to pay nursing home care.
There are other options that allow the transfer of your assets, sometimes to family members, in return for valuable consideration to be provided to you by those family members. If the transaction is strucutred properly, the transfer of the assets to the family member will not create a penalty period and you can qualify for Medicaid benefits to pay for nursing home costs immediately.
Medicaid benefits are becoming more difficult to obtain because of the budgetary problems most states are experiencing (and Florida is no exception to this national trend), according to the Wall Street Journal (“Medicaid Gets Harder to Tap“, April 1, 2012). As the rules tighten and are more strictly enforced, the need for proper planning and implementation of a spenddown plan becomes more imporant than ever if you want to qualify for Medicaid benefits to pay for nursing home costs and protect your assets from the cost of nursing home care.
If I am already in a nursing home, is it too late to give away my assets and qualify for Medicaid to pay for Nursing Home Costs?
If you, a family member or loved one, is already in a nursing home, it is not too late to protect substantial assets. But, to protect the assets from nursing home costs it is imperative that the rules and Medicaid law be precisely followed in the process. Otherwise, you may engage in actions that will result in your disqualification for Medicaid nursing home benefits, or create a penalty period that will cost you and your family tens of thousands of collars.
We have been preparing spenddown plans to qualify for Medicaid benefits, and successfully filing Medicaid applications for nursing home benefits for more than 15 years. If you need the assistance of an elder law attorney experienced in successfully planning for and filing Medicaid applications to pay for nursing home costs, please call us to schedule an appointment at 904-448-1969, toll free at 888-492-2468, or email us at Info@TheColemanLawFirm.net.
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