Question: I have an unmarried elderly client who is interested in qualifying for Medicaid, so the government will pay for her long term care costs. She has about $100,000 in a savings account. Can she qualify financially for Medicaid?
Answer: Not right away.
Medicaid is a government program that pays for certain kinds of long term care costs of people who can’t care for themselves and who are in financial need. An unmarried person can only have very limited countable financial resources—otherwise the person won’t qualify for Medicaid.
In this example, the client’s savings account is a countable asset that would make her ineligible to qualify for Medicaid.
It’s possible for people to plan in advance to maximize their chances to qualify for Medicaid. This kind of planning is called Medicaid planning. They can implement strategies that include
- Spending assets prior to applying for Medicaid,
- Transferring assets from countable assets to exempt assets, and
- Giving assets away to family members.
If a client makes gifts of assets to family members, the assets are still counted for Medicaid qualification purposes for five years after the gift is made.
Medicaid planning can require making difficult decisions, and sometimes also involves sophisticated strategies. We strongly urge those involved in the process to consult with a competent local elder law attorney.
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