Every month, Lawrence Cappiello writes a check to a nursing home for $12,000 to pay for the cost of his wife’s nursing home care. Two years ago, his net worth was $500,000. In less than two years, the Cappiello’s savings will be gone. This unsettling story is explained in the article “How to Keep LTC Costs From Devouring Your Client’s Life Savings” from Insurance News Net. He is suffering from nursing home sticker shock and says he should have known better.
Cappiello was a professor at the University of Buffalo for 25 years. During that time, he taught an introductory course on health care and human services that touched on the costs to consumers. He said it was clear even then, that the cost of health care was going to escalate out of control.
To qualify for Medicaid payments of nursing home care in Mississippi, residents are permitted to own no more than $4,000 in nonexempt assets subject to certain exceptions. However, elder lawyers, whose practices focus on these exact issues, say that the way to protect the family’s assets, is to take steps years before nursing home care is needed. Some general recommendations:
- Signing over the deed of the home to children or any others who would otherwise inherit it from you in a will. The transaction would need to stipulate that you have life use of the home.
- Establishing an irrevocable trust, that upon death, transfers the house to the beneficiaries. There must be language that ensures that you have life use of the house.
- Giving away savings and other financial assets.
Transfers of any assets must take place more than five years before applying for Medicaid nursing home coverage. If they have been given away or transferred within the five year “look-back” period, then there is a chance that they may still qualify, or they may have to wait five years.
That is why planning with an experienced elder law attorney is so critical for families, especially when one of the spouses is facing a known illness that will get worse with time. There are steps that can be taken, but they must be done in a timely manner.
Many older people are not exactly jumping with joy at the idea of handing over their assets, even when relationships with adult children are good. The idea of giving up assets and the family home is a marker of the passage of time and the inevitability of death. These are not things that we enjoy considering. However, taking these steps in advance, can make a huge difference in the quality of the well spouse’s life.
It should be noted that a sick spouse can move assets to a healthy spouse, to make the sick spouse lawfully poor and eligible for Medicaid. There is no look back period or penalty for interspousal transfers. This sounds like a very simple solution. However, these are complex matters that need the help of an experienced attorney. If it were so easy, countless spouses would not be facing their own impoverishment because of an ill spouse.
Reference: Insurance News Net (Feb. 4, 2019) “How to Keep LTC Costs From Devouring Your Client’s Life Savings”