While you might need to “spend down” some of your assets to qualify for Medicaid or MassHealth in Massachusetts. To pay for your nursing home care, you typically will not have to sell your house as part of this process. However, there is still a chance the state will attempt to file a claim against your property after you pass away, so there are still some steps you can take to shield your home against these claims.
If the state does attempt to do this, it will likely be as part of recouping what MassHealth paid for your care through Medicaid from your estate. Based on the rules that exist for Medicaid eligibility, your home is likely to be the only asset of substantial worth that you have in your possession at the time of your death, making it a natural choice for the state to attempt to recover what it paid out on your behalf.
Therefore, before you enter a nursing home, make sure you speak with an attorney about the best ways you can protect your home from these claims. Here are a few tips to consider.
You can transfer your home to another person
Transferring your house to another person could result in a Medicaid penalty period, though there are some situations in which transferring the house is legal. In some cases you can transfer your home to the following people without such a transfer penalty applying:
- Your spouse
- Any child under the age of 21, or any blind or disabled child of any age
- A trust for the sole benefit of a person under age 65 who is disabled
- A sibling who has been living in your home during the year before you go into the nursing home, and who already has some equity interest in the home
- A child of yours who lived in the home for at least two years before you entered a nursing home and who provided care allowing you to avoid a nursing home stay in that time
Selling and even renting your home is also an option, but keep in mind that it could make you ineligible for Medicaid, and that the proceeds might have to go toward your nursing home bills or spent down.
Know what to do if a lien is put on your home
There are some situations in which Medicaid might put a lien on your home for the amount of money to be spent on your nursing home care. If that property gets sold while you’re still alive, you’d have to pay back the state to satisfy the lien. Some of the exceptions above for transfer penalties also apply to liens on the home.
The state cannot always perform estate recovery
There are some situations in which the value of your house can be protected from estate recovery performed by the state. It cannot recover, for example, if you and your spouse owned the house as tenants by the entirety, or if the house is in your spouse’s name and you completely gave up your interest in it. In addition, if you placed the house in certain irrevocable trusts, the state will not be able to put a lien on the home.
Set up a consultation today to learn how to transfer and protect your home!
For more information about how to protect your home if you go into a nursing home, contact an experienced Medicaid planning and elder law attorney at Baker Law Group, P.C.