If you’ve been worried about how you’re going to pay for the high cost of nursing home care, you’re in good company. Millions of Americans suffer anxiety over those costs at some point in their lives. The fact is that nursing home costs are higher than they’ve ever been, and they don’t look as though they’re going to be going down any time soon. To pay for them, you may have to do what so many other Floridians do and choose to rely on benefits from the Medicaid program. But will you qualify for those benefits? You may have heard a number of popular myths about the process of trying to qualify for Medicaid; here are seven that you can ignore.
- It is possible to hide your money and other assets from Medicaid in order to qualify for benefits.
This is wrong on so many levels. First, you should understand that Medicaid is empowered to search through your transaction records as far back as five years prior to your application for benefits – so they’ll likely find those assets anyway. More importantly, however, any intentional effort to misrepresent your assets is criminal and could result in severe penalties. Besides, there are legal ways to structure your estate so that those assets are sheltered the right way.
- Putting your assets into your spouse’s name is enough to help you qualify for Medicaid
Medicaid can count both your assets and those of your spouse while determining your eligibility, so that strategy may not work. On the other hand, there are different options that you and your spouse can use to ensure that you are found to be eligible despite those assets.
- You can’t qualify for Medicaid once you’re already in a nursing home.
You can not only qualify for program benefits once you’re in a long-term care facility, but you can even begin to start serious Medicaid planning if you haven’t done so already. So, if you are already in a nursing home and still have too much in assets to qualify for Medicaid, contact an estate planning attorney to develop a strategy to protect those assets and secure the benefits you need.
- You have to be impoverished before you can get program benefits.
One common myth is that you have to spend down all of your assets before you can even begin to qualify for program benefits. That’s not true. An estate planning attorney can help you to restructure assets in a way that protects them from being counted when eligibility is calculated.
- A living trust can shield your assets and protect them from being used for nursing home costs.
When you have your assets in a living trust, Medicaid can still consider them as wealth that you can access to pay your own nursing home costs. The good news, however, is that there are other types of trusts that can remove those assets from your reach and protect them from consideration when you apply for the assistance you need.
- You can just give money to family and friends to make yourself eligible.
This is a commonly believed myth that can prove disastrous if you act on it. Despite many warning to the contrary, some people still assume that they can reduce the size of their estate by giving wealth away – or simply transferring it into someone else’s name. That sounds great in principle, and seems on the surface to be an almost foolproof way to ensure that Medicaid approves your application. After all, if you give enough away to put your total assets below the limit set for eligibility, then there shouldn’t be a problem – right?
There is a problem, however. Congress recognized that people could use gifting and transfers to shield wealth and get benefits they weren’t actually entitled to receive. To prevent that, laws were passed to provide Medicaid with the authority to review all of your asset transactions going back five years from the date you apply. That five-year look-back period allows the program to find transfers you made during that time and potentially count them as part of your estate. That can result in penalties that involve a denial of benefits for a certain period of time.
- Medicaid planning is simple enough that you don’t actually need a lawyer’s help.
This is a myth that many people instinctively know to be untrue but choose to believe out of a desire to avoid what they perceive to be high legal costs. The reality is this: you can indeed try to plan for Medicaid eligibility on your own. You can try to spend down assets, transfer wealth, and make other plans to ensure that you get the assistance you need when you need it. Just know that if your efforts fail, you could set yourself up for a lengthy period of ineligibility that could result in you being forced to pay for your own care. That could potentially consume your savings and leave you with nothing.
An experienced estate planning attorney who understands Medicaid planning and other elements of elder law can help you to avoid those pitfalls and ensure that you have the help you need when you need it most. The fact is that your estate is complex, but Medicaid eligibility planning can be even more complicated. Rely on professionals who have successfully helped others just like you to achieve their eligibility goals.
At Robert Kulas Attorneys at Law, our estate planning team knows how destructive these Medicaid myths can be for people who are trying to plan ahead for the benefits they need to pay for the high costs of long-term care. Contact us at our website or call us at (772) 398-0720 today so that we can help you get past the myths and create a Medicaid plan that can ensure that your assistance is secured.