The Livens Law Firm

Asset protection for spouses during long-term care planning

At some point, Medicare may not be enough coverage for elders with serious health issues. Additional coverage through the Medicaid program may help defray costs for services that Medicare does not cover. Seniors in Texas who are considering long-term care planning must be over the age of 65 and be both financially and medically qualified to receive Medicaid assistance.

Single persons who apply for Medicaid may have only $2,000 in assets to meet the asset test. Guidelines for a married couple are far different. As with single people, Medicaid looks at married couples as one unit, so neither party can transfer assets to the other to qualify for benefits. However, assets such as the primary home, one vehicle and term life policies with no cash value are exempt. Anything else is considered countable assets, and the healthy spouse can keep one half of those up to $121,000.

When trying to qualify for Medicaid, one spouse cannot divorce the other to keep assets safe. Medicaid will go back five years unless there is a standing prenuptial agreement that narrows down the asset division. Transferring assets will not exclude the ailing spouse from applying for Medicaid, but penalties could be applied delaying benefit eligibility.

The bottom line is that hiding or transferring assets to qualify for Medicaid benefits will only penalize the recipients and prolong the time until they meet eligibility standards. The best move may be to discuss all options with an attorney who specializes in elder law. In Texas, a lawyer who has vast experience in Medicaid applications and long-term care planning can answer questions and explain the ins and outs of the laws and regulations.

Source: nj.com, "Married and protecting assets from Medicaid", Karin Price Mueller, Dec. 13, 2017

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