When it comes to understanding the federal laws surrounding Medicaid there are many provisions that are made to protect the applicant’s spouse. Many are unknown and therefore couples fail to take advantage of them. Without knowing these provisions couples can lose upwards of thousands of dollars unnecessarily putting themselves into poverty in order to pay for their spouses nursing home care. In this installment we will discuss the mistakes to avoid with Medicaid and nursing homes.
Avoid purchasing assets that are exempt before admitting a spouse into a nursing home facility. One of the protections for Medicaid applicants is known as the community spouse resource allowance or CSRA for short. A community spouse is the term that Medicaid uses for the spouse of the applicant. Exempt items include a couple’s residence, vehicles, household goods, medical equipment, jewelry and a few other specific items.
Non-exempt assets are items such as checking and savings accounts, CD’s, mutual funds, savings bonds and such. These non-exempt items are subject to spend-down where as the exempt items are not. To avoid issues from arising from this mistake it is important to wait until after a spouse has been admitted to a qualifying facility to buy any asset that is considered exempt.
Another common error make in Medicaid planning is failing to make use of the non-exempt assets to protect the spouse’s income. Federal protection is in place to protect the community spouse that is known as the MMNA or monthly maintenance needs allowance. Many spouses have an income below the MMNA. It makes sense to use non-exempt assets to raise the community spouse’s income. It is crucial that couples make it a goal to obtain and maintain income for the remaining spouse who could potentially live for another twenty plus years.
Before spending down assets it is important to meet with an elder law attorney that is experienced in Medicaid law and planning. An elder law attorney can help couples determine how to use assets that might not otherwise be spent down to provide an income for the spouse.
It is a mistake to spend down Medicaid exempt resources such as an individual’s IRA. If couples use these exempt funds to pay for care they are basically wasting funds that the other spouse could benefit from in the future. A couple should never spend down assets without knowing for sure what is exempt and what is not. Doing so could truly jeopardize the future of the spouse that is not seeking care from a nursing home facility.
Another mistake that can occur comes from having an insufficient power of attorney in place. When couples who are married seek Medicaid approval they have up to ninety days to make transfers of money and property to the community spouse. If a proper power of attorney is not in place at that time savings opportunities can be lost forever.
Speak to an elder law attorney specializing in Medicaid planning today. This will help ensure that in future if something does occur with a loved one that all the proper steps are in place to be sure the process of getting Medicaid approval is quick and painless. It will also help to guarantee the community spouse can remain living at their current standard of living without jeopardizing either spouse’s quality of life.
The Law Office of Sean J. Nichols is dedicated to assisting clients throughout legal issues that come with aging including: elder law, estate planning, probate law and more. Check out the Law Office of Sean J. Nichols at http://www.seanjnichols.com to contact an estate attorney today.