Most experts recommend that we plan for nursing home costs many years before we need care. As a rule, the high costs associated with long-term care should motive people to prepare for those expenses years in advance, with asset protection plans that can help to ensure that they qualify for important benefits like Medicaid. In the real world, however, few people ever have that foresight. That leaves many people without any plan in place right when they need Medicaid the most. If you failed to plan for Medicaid eligibility and now find yourself facing a need for that program’s help to cover the costs of your long-term care, emergency Medicaid strategies may be your last and best hope.
Not That Kind of Emergency
Of course, it’s important to recognize that we’re not talking about the kind of emergency Medicaid that one would ordinarily turn to when confronting a sudden medical need. That type of emergency coverage is typically for uninsured individuals who are suddenly faced with an acute medical emergency and have no other way to pay for care. These benefits are applied for after the care has been provided, and can be used by children and lower-income adults. Moreover, those benefits are available to citizens, legal residents of the United States, and illegal aliens alike.
The emergency Medicaid at issue here involves strategies that you can use when you need long-term nursing care but haven’t previously made plans to ensure that you’re eligible for those benefits. It may be that you simply have too much income due to generous pension plans, or perhaps your assets exceed the $2,000 allowable under the program guidelines. Whatever the reason, if you suddenly find that you need nursing home care and cannot qualify for benefits, these emergency strategies can help to ensure that you get the program benefits you need.
Why You Should Plan Years in Advance
Obviously, the best option is to plan for these things years before you have a need for care. Prior planning can present you with the widest range of options to pursue, and provide the most benefits when it comes to asset protection. More importantly, planning will enable you to avoid the inevitable panic that occurs when you’re suddenly confronted with thousands of dollars of potential nursing home costs and must quickly figure out how to get the help you need. Without that planning, you could be tempted to make rash decisions about your wealth that could cause you to make mistakes that could see you penalized with Medicaid ineligibility for months or even years.
Fortunately, however, you don’t have to lose everything or risk ineligibility penalties even if you fail to plan as you should. With experienced Medicaid planning attorneys on your side, you can take advantage of a variety of different strategies that can help you to obtain the eligibility you need, even when you’ve waited until the last minute to act.
Strategies That Can Help
There are several different tools and strategies available to most seniors, including the following:
- Convert nonexempt assets to exempt assets. This strategy involves spending wealth in a way that properly converts it into assets that won’t be considered as countable when Medicaid calculates your eligibility. For example, you could have your spouse make improvements to your home, or even purchase a more expensive home to reduce the size of your estate. That way, your loved ones still receive the benefit of your wealth, while you get an opportunity to reduce your asset total below the required levels for eligibility.
- Spend down money by paying down debt. For example, if you have credit cards or similar debts, you can pay them off to remove liquid capital from your estate. You could purchase a burial plot and prepay for your funeral.
- You can transfer assets in your name and jointly owned properties into your spouse’s name to take advantage of statutory spousal protections. Since the law is designed to ensure that your spouse is not impoverished by your need for long-term care, these protections can provide the mechanism you need to lower the total value of your assets.
- You can consider the purchase of an annuity to lower your asset level. This will convert your nonexempt assets into an income stream, some of which can then be directed to your spouse using the program’s income rules. The result is positive for everyone involved: your personal asset total is reduced, and your spouse has additional revenue to avoid impoverishment.
- You may be able to transfer some assets to your minor children, including children with disabilities, thus removing them from consideration.
- You may also be able to utilize a Caregiver Contract to spend some assets on care and household services. Typically, this is used to reimburse children for services that they provide around the home once your health deteriorates.
Don’t Go It Alone
Obviously, many of these strategies can be extremely complex and difficult for the average layperson to manage on his or her own. To further complicate matters, the Medicaid program’s strict penalties are something that no applicant wants to face. To avoid them, however, you’ll need to make sure that you’re relying on the advice and counsel of competent Medicaid planning attorneys to help you better understand which strategies are right for you.
The experts at Robert J. Kulas, P.A., Medicaid & Estate Planning Attorneys, have the knowledge and experience you need to help you with emergency Medicaid concerns. We understand that proper planning for long-term care is sometimes not an option, but also believe that a failure to foresee a long-term care need shouldn’t preclude you from receiving the benefits you need. We work with you to find the absolute best strategies and techniques to accomplish all your goals, while protecting assets whenever we can. If you’d like to learn more about how our team can assist you with these important strategies, visit us at our website or call us today at (772) 398-0720.