Medicaid is a means-tested program that conditionally accepts applicants based on their income and current assets. According to Medicaid regulations, individuals must have less than $2,000 to qualify for coverage. Applying for Medicaid is quite a complex process, as the questions being asked within the application have great depth and implications for your future. The foundational system responsible for asking the questions that define your eligibility for Medicaid purposely selects specific diction and word choice which may make it challenging for elderly individuals to effectively answer the questions. Considering that these questions are the main defining factor when it comes to obtaining Medicaid coverage, family members should seek guidance from an experienced Elder Law Attorney to guide them through this imperative process. The attorney is quite familiar with your state’s rules when it comes to long-term care planning and receiving government benefits. An Elder Care Attorney will use her experience in the field to devise the most effective plan in assisting the family by selecting strategies that align with the family’s personal and financial circumstances. Below are the top 5 strategies suggested by an Elder Law Attorney regarding ways of protecting your assets from Medicaid.

Best Strategies for Protecting your Assets from Medicaid

1. Income Trusts

Income Trusts serve the purpose of protecting your assets and keeping your monetary income safe. This trust aids in maintaining the income limit set for all Medicaid applicants. Income Trusts are beneficial towards those applicants that exceed the qualifying amount. These trusts give the applicant an opportunity to designate a sub quantity of their income to a specific trust in order to refrain from exceeding the standard acceptable quantity. The Qualified Income Trusts are irrevocable meaning they cannot be changed or revoked. They serve as holding areas for the applicant’s excess income and protect this income from being taken by Medicaid. In states that allow applicants to spend down their excess income, these trusts are less effective, yet can still be utilized based on the applicant’s preference. In order to qualify for Medicaid many married couples must participate in the Spend-Down process, which pertains to the prospects of saving assets when only one spouse needs Medicaid. The purpose of this process is to ensure that the individual in need of long-term care receives the aid they need, while also guaranteeing that their spouse has the financial means of remaining in their home and covering the cost of all their living expenses. An Elder Care Attorney can assist you in establishing an Income Trust and answering any of your questions regarding the trust. 

2. Asset Protection Trust 

An Asset Protection Trust is a great way to preserve your assets when applying for Medicaid, as it allows you to maintain your wealth while still receiving coverage. This is helpful because a Medicaid applicant is only eligible for convergence if they meet the specified quantity of assets held within their account. Many individuals fall into the assumption that the best way to remove the additional assets that prevent them from getting Medicaid coverage is to transfer the assets to family members. This approach, however, is extremely flawed and risky because it often results in a Medicaid penalty. Incurring a penalty prevents you from receiving coverage for a specified period of time. A trust allows you to disperse these assets to the family members you had in mind at the time of creating a trust. The beneficiaries will not be subject to the payment of capital gains tax based on the increase in quantitative value your assets have accrued over time. It is important to note that transfers to a trust are still subject to the Medicaid Lookback period,which tends to include the last five years of your assets. This strategy is extremely effective when it comes to protecting your assets fromMedicaid, while still receiving the coverage you are in need of. An Elder Care Attorney can guide you through the process of creating an Asset Protection Trust based on your personalized extent of assets. 

3. Caregiver Agreement

A caregiver agreement is beneficial to individuals who require additional services that will not be included within the typical Medicaid coverage. This option is great for individuals who would prefer to be cared for by a family member or a trusted close friend. You would not only be cared for by an individual you already know and have a close relationship with, but you would also be benefitting the caregiver for their service. The caregiver will be paid for their duty in caring for you and you will receive the best care possible. In most cases the caregiver would be paid for their services in advance under a contract that defines the services provided and the hours being worked. In the case that the patient passes away all of the unearned funds must be paid to Medicaid in correlation to the amount that Medicaid paid for the patient’s care. A Caregiver Agreement can be the best option for numerous individuals who do not wish to leave home and go into the care of a nursing home, as they would still be able to maintain their full Medicaid coverage. An Elder Care Attorney can help you make the decision in selecting a caregiver you trust to take care of you. 

4. Medicaid Compliant Annuities and Promissory Notes

In many cases, individuals require urgent long-term care services, however they have recently conducted a transfer of assets or are still in possession of the assets that limit the income cap they require to qualify for Medicaid coverage. As of now, there is no possible method of removing these assets in time to qualify for coverage because any movement of the assets will result in a Medicaid penalty. The only options left to qualify for coverage under such short notice and with exceeding assets present would be to write an annuity or promissory note. This would serve as an insurance product that would payout the income. First, you would make an investment into the annuity. Then, the insurance provider would return your income by using a constant stream of income approach. The annuity has specific qualifications to ensure that Medicaid will approve of the strategy. The annuity must be fixed with all monthly payments being the same, while also being irrevocable. The annuity is unassignable meaning it cannot be transferred or sold to another individual. The payments on the annuity must be immediate in order to qualify for coverage. An Elder Care Attorney can further explain this strategy in describing the best course of action in selecting an annuity with qualifications that would make it possible for you to still qualify for Medicaid. 

5. Spousal Transfers and Spousal Refusal

According to current Medicaid laws, transfers may occur between spouses without being subject to the five year look-back period. The assets who are under the name of the spouse in need of care should be transferred to the name of the spouse who doesn't require care. The spouse who is not in need of care is typically referred to as the community spouse. With the presence of spousal refusal, the community spouse may refuse to provide necessary support to the spouse in need of care. If this is the case, then the spouse who is in need of care will immediately be provided Medicaid services to ensure that they are provided with all the care necessary. Medicaid may then require the community spouse to make contributions even though that spouse initially refused to provide the necessary support. The community spouse will still receive a benefit because the reimbursements to Medicaid will be at specified discounted rates. Spousal refusal is present in New York, however it may not be present in other states. Seeking legal advice from an Elder Care Attorney puts you and your loved ones in a good position to protect your assets from Medicaid. 

Reasoning Behind Asset Protection:

Asset protection from Medicaid is extremely important in the long run in regards to receiving long term coverage. Without taking the proper steps now to protect your assets, you may be unable to receive long term coverage, such as nursing home care. Long term care insurance provides coverage for nursing home care and at home coverage for individuals ages 65 and older with chronic conditions. There is nothing worse than running out of money when you need it most, so by taking the necessary steps to protect your assets today, you will avoid this problem when it becomes time to consider long term care. An Elder Care Attorney will guide you through the process of following all of the strategies above to save and protect your assets from Medicaid.

For further Medicaid eligibility information please contact the Law Office of Inna Fershteyn at 718-333-2394 to effectively protect your assets from Medicaid.