Many people who apply for Medicaid benefits to pay for nursing home care ask this question.  For many, the home constitutes much or most of their life savings.  Often, it’s the only asset that a person has to pass on to his or her children.

Under Medicaid regulations, the home is an excluded resource unless having an equity value (for applications made in 2019) in excess of $585,000.  This means that it is not taken into account when calculating eligibility for Medicaid.  But this exclusion is illusory.  After a Medicaid recipient dies, federal law requires states to attempt to recover previously paid benefits from the recipient’s probate estate.  This is referred to as “Estate Recovery”.  Generally, the probate estate consists of assets that the deceased owned in his or her name alone without beneficiary designation.

About two-thirds of the nation’s nursing home residents have their costs paid in large part by Medicaid.  Obviously, the Estate Recovery law affects many families.  The asset most frequently caught in the Estate Recovery web is the home of the Medicaid recipient.  A nursing home resident can own a home and receive Medicaid benefits without having to sell the home.  But upon death if the home is part of the probate estate, the state may seek to force the sale of the home in order to reimburse the state for the payments that were made.

Fortunately, various legal strategies exist to protect one’s home.  These include transfers to Medicaid trusts, full or partial interest sales to family members in exchange for Promissory Notes, and gift transfers to protected persons, such as community spouses, caregiver children, co-owner siblings and disabled children.

Contact Vasiliadis Pappas Associates to learn more about your options and other measures to protect yourself.