Nursing home care in Massachusetts can often cost $150,000 per year or more. Many clients are worried that they will not have enough money to pay for their care and that they may lose their home. It is best to prepare in advance to protect your most valuable asset. However, sometimes things happend that we don't expect. The following tips may help you to protect your home:
1. Plan now, since you need to wait five years after the planning is done to ensure that your home will be protected. MassHealth/ Medicaid looks at all transfers of assets, to anyone other than your spouse, for less than fair market value within five years of applying. Therefore, those that plan at least five years in advance are in the best positon to protect their homes. Most often planning involves a life estate deed or irrevocable trust. You should consult an elder law attorney to make sure that you consider the risks, benefits, and tax consequences before you change the title of your home.
2. If you are healthy and have significant assets, long term care insurance can help protect your home. Some long term care insurance policies can help to protect your home in the event that you need to apply for MassHealth to pay for nursing home care. The long term care insurance policy must meet specific requirements. You should have an elder law attorney review the policy before you purchase it, to ensure that it will provide the protection you want.
3. If your spouse needs nursing home care and you are still living in the home, the home can often be protected. MassHealth has provisions in place to protect the home for the spouse who still lives there. If the healthy spouse were to die unexpectedly, the home would be at risk. An elder law attorney can advise you to make sure that the house will be protected, in case of the unforseen. There are several strategies that we can use to protect the assets (not just the home) for the healthy spouse.
4. If your son or daughter lives with you and provides care that enables you to stay at home, you may be able to protect your home. MassHealth provides special exceptions to protect the home for a "caretaker child". The caretaker child must live with you for at least two years immediatley prior to your admissiont to a nursing home and provide care that allowed you to remain at home, rather than a nursing home.
5. If your brother or sister lives with you and owns part of the home, you may have a chance to protect the home. MassHealth provides protection for siblings that live together and own the home together, when one of the siblings needs nursing home care.
A single person applying for MassHealth may still be able to keep the home, if he/she is willing to rent out the house to cover the expenses and maintenance of the home. In this situation, MassHealth will place a lien on the home. At the end of your life they will seek to be paid back for the amount paid for your care.
An elder law attorney can review the best strategies to help you protect your home, whether you are planning in advance or facing a crisis. We are always here to help.
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