• Kathy L. McNair, Esq.

Protecting Assets When Your Spouse Needs Nursing Home Care

Updated: Jan 23


In the Greater Boston area, nursing home care can cost over $130,000, per year. Medicare and private health insurance will only pay for nursing home care for a short time and not more than 100 days. You may have the intention of caring for your spouse at home, but in reality your spouse's needs may be more than you can handle.

MassHealth (also known as Medicaid) provides financial assistance to people that need nursing home care and meet certain financial requirements. Advanced planning offers the greatest opportunity to protect your assets. However, steps can still be taken to protect assets when nursing home care is imminent, especially for married couples, when one spouse is still living at home.

Here are a few important tips:

1. Timing is critical, you need guidance now.

As soon as you realize that your spouse is likely to need nursing home care, you should contact an elder law attorney. This is not the time to try to save on legal fees, since we can often help clients save a significant amount of assets and protect their life savings. Each day that you wait may cost you $300 - $500. It does not matter if you have never met with an attorney before and don't have a will or any estate planning documents. At our office, we devise a written plan outlining the steps that you need to take to qualify for MassHealth and protect your assets. In order to prepare for the meeting, it is helpful for you to provide a list of your assets and income.

2. Don't rely on the nursing home for advice or to prepare the MassHealth application for you.

Perhaps the nursing home has offered to prepare the Medicaid application for you for free. If your assets exceed $121,220 you won't get the advice that you need. If you have less than $121,220, you may miss critical steps to protect the assets that you do have. The nursing home will advise you to spend down your assets paying for nursing home care, when you have options that are more beneficial to you.

3. You should not have to sell your home to pay for nursing home care.

You may worry about having to sell your house to pay for nursing home care. With proper planning and guidance you should not need to sell your house to pay for your spouse's nursing home care. Again, it is critical to meet with an elder law attorney to ensure that your home will be protected.

4. You need to review your own estate plan and beneficiary designations.

The spouse still living at home should consider changing his/her will. Life is uncertain and it is possible that the healthy spouse at home could die first. Without proper planning, all of the assets that you leave to your spouse in the nursing home will need to be spent down paying for his/her care.

In order to protect the assets in the event that the healthy spouse dies first, this is often accomplished by establishing a testamentary trust for the spouse in the nursing home. A testamentary trust is a trust within a will that can protect assets for the nursing home spouse, so that he or she can continue to receive MassHealth benefits.

You should not disinherit your spouse completely as this could create problems for MassHealth eligibility. An elder law attorney will assist you in reviewing your assets, to ensure that they are titled properly. If you hold joint assets with your spouse, you will likely need to change this.

Senior Solutions, Attorneys at Law, is an elder law and estate planning law firm serving the Greater Boston and South Shore of Massachusetts. We are caring attorneys, ready to help you. Please feel free to contact us anytime that you have a question related to elder law or estate planning.

Phone: 617-489-5900, email: kmcnair@seniorsolutionsinfo.com, www.seniorsolutionsinfo.com


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