What is homestead: A “homestead” is the primary residence occupied by the Medicaid recipient or his spouse, minor or disabled child. A homestead is an exempt resource for the purpose of Medicaid eligibility.
Penalty Period: All transfers, including the transfer of your home, are subject to a ‘look back period’ from the time of the application for Medicaid nursing home benefits. Currently the ‘look back period” is 5 years. The period of ineligibility for nursing home services is calculated by dividing (i) the uncompensated value of the transferred resource by (ii) the average regional monthly cost of a nursing home to a private pay patient. The period of ineligibility begins only when the Medicaid recipient is in a nursing home and “otherwise eligible”. The maximum penalty period is 60 months.
There is currently no look back period and no penalty for uncompensated transfers for Medicaid home care benefits.
Exempt transfers: Some transfers are exempt and do not incur a penalty period. Those are transfers to a spouse, transfers to a minor or disabled child, transfers to an adult child who has resided with the parent for at least 2 years prior to the transfer and became a primary caregiver, and transfers to a brother or sister of the owner who has lived with the owner for at least one year prior to the transfer and who already owns an ‘equity interest’ in the home.
Why should the home be transferred if it is an exempt resource? Even though it is an exempt resource, Medicaid has a right to put a lien on the home for the services provided to the Medicaid recipient. Therefore, even though one will have a right to receive Medicaid and a right to live in one’s home, after the Medicaid recipient’s death, the heirs will likely have to sell the home to pay off the Medicaid lien.
Furthermore, if the Medicaid recipient has to go into a nursing home and there is no spouse or minor / disabled child living in the home, the homestead becomes an available resource. At that point, it will likely have to be sold and the proceeds will be used to pay for nursing home.
Various Types of Transfers That Need to be Considered When Protecting the Home
Outright transfer to a spouse
Outright transfer to children / relatives
Outright transfer with a retained life estate
Transfer to a revocable trust
Transfer to an irrevocable trust with a retained life estate
Transfer to an irrevocable trust
Each type of a transfer has its own Medicaid, legal, asset protection and tax implications. The effect on the Medicaid recipient during his lifetime, the effect on the beneficiaries during the Medicaid recipient’s lifetime, and the effect on the beneficiaries after the Medicaid recipient’s lifetime should be considered.
There is no one correct solution that applies to everyone. Each situation is unique, and the client’s health, family status, resources and goals must be considered. It helps to talk to an elder law attorney, to evaluate the different options, and to understand the implications of your actions.
Disclaimer: This article only offers general information. Each situation is unique. It is always helpful to talk to a specialized attorney, to figure out your various options and ramifications of actions. As every case has subtle differences, please do not use this article for legal advice. Only a signed engagement letter will create an attorney-client relationship.