Will Medicaid Take My House?
As elder law attorneys, one of the most common questions we are asked is whether Medicaid will take or confiscate someone’s home. The short answer to this is “no” – however, whether you will be able to keep your home and remain eligible for Medicaid is a more complicated answer.
Although Medicaid is a needs-based federal program, it is administered by the states, meaning each state has its own laws for Medicaid eligibility. There are also many different Medicaid programs with different eligibility rules. When elderly people can no longer take care of themselves, they often need long-term care Medicaid in a nursing home or community-based care in the home. In Virginia and many other states, Medicaid recipients can only have a maximum of $2,000 in countable assets.
If you are a homeowner, you may read about this $2,000 asset limit and think you will never be eligible for Medicaid. However, the good news is that if you are living at home and receiving Medicaid benefits, the home is not counted toward the $2,000 asset limit. The bad news is that in-home Medicaid only covers an average of 40-50 hours of care a week – that means if you need round-the-clock care, you will have to find family members or other caregivers who can provide extra care.
The rules are a bit different if you live in a nursing home. Once you have moved out of your house and it has been vacant for six months, Medicaid will count the value of your house toward the $2,000 asset limit. The only way to avoid this is to list the house for fair market value. This can mean the tax assessed value or the appraised value. While the house is on the market, it is not counted against you. However, once the house sells, the proceeds of the sale are again counted toward the $2,000 asset limit. If you sell your house, you will not be eligible for Medicaid again until your countable assets are below $2,000.
So, does this mean if you sell your house, you have to spend all of your money paying for a nursing home until you only have $2,000 left? No! An experienced elder law attorney can advise you about strategies to protect at least half of your money from being spent on your care. If you or a loved one has to go to a nursing home, it is important to contact an elder law attorney right away so that you can learn what benefits are available and how your money can be preserved.
There are also important exceptions to this rule. If you are married, your spouse can continue to live in the home, and it will not be counted toward the asset limit. If you have a disabled child, you may be able to transfer the house to them without being penalized. And finally, if you have a child who has been living with you and taking care of you, you may be able to transfer ownership of the house to them without being penalized. Additionally, if you are not yet ready for a nursing home and want to do long-term care planning, you can speak to an attorney about crediting an Asset Protection Trust and whether it is right for you and your family.
While Medicaid itself will not take or seize your home, there are certain circumstances in which you may have to sell your house in order to be eligible for Medicaid. It is important to seek the advice of an experienced elder law attorney so that you can learn your rights and know which benefits and which type of plan is right for you.
Pets Corner – Ask Jolene
Hook Law: Jolene, what can you tell us about the tamarin monkeys who went missing from the Dallas Zoo?
Jolene: This is an interesting case. Two tamarin monkeys, Bella and Finn, recently went missing from the Dallas Zoo. They were found on January 31 inside of a closet of an abandoned home. Thankfully, the monkeys were not injured. This comes on the heels of multiple animals that have gone missing in recent weeks, causing the zoo to review its security system. On January 13, a clouded leopard went missing after a cutting tool was used to make an opening in the fencing surrounding her habitat. On January 22, one of the zoo’s endangered vultures was found dead. The 106-acre zoo is working with the Dallas Police Department and security experts to develop new strategies for security in light of these recent events.
Emily A. Martin
757-399-7506 | 252-722-2890
Emily A. Martin is a Shareholder of Hook Law practicing in the areas of elder law, estate and trust administration, estate planning, asset protection planning, litigation and dispute resolution, guardianship and conservatorship, long-term care planning, special needs planning and financial planning. To date, Ms. Martin has overseen over 100 guardianship and conservatorship matters. In addition to being admitted to the Virginia State Bar and North Carolina State Bar, she is licensed to practice before the Department of Veterans Affairs. Ms. Martin is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and Virginia Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. She is a graduate of the University of Mary Washington and Regent University School of Law. Prior to joining the firm in 2018, Emily worked as an estate planning and elder law attorney in Virginia Beach for several years.
- Elder Law
- Estate & Trust Administration
- Estate Planning
- Asset Protection Planning
- Guardianship & Conservatorship
- Long-Term Care Planning
- Special Needs Planning
- Financial Planning