One of the many benefits of estate planning is that it helps people get through some of life’s most difficult times. We read recently a letter a man wrote to his local newspaper with a question that was both interesting and heartbreaking.
He writes that his wife was diagnosed with dementia a decade ago at age 58. Though he kept her at home for years, her care was becoming financially unsupportable. They had spent $800,000 on her care since the diagnosis and he was forced to move her into a Medicaid-licensed facility though she is not yet on the federal and state program. Because his wife just received an inheritance, he wants to know if that inheritance will be affected if and when she does go on Medicaid.
The advice columnist replied wisely, stating right away that the husband should speak with an estate planning attorney familiar with tools that can shield assets and loved ones.
The columnist spoke with an estate planning expert with a wealth management firm who said that in general, a person qualifies for Medicaid when their assets are below around $2,000. The expert said if someone owns assets that are not exempt from the cap, but are regardless inaccessible (such as an unpaid inheritance), that person can still qualify for Medicaid.
“However, as soon as the inheritance is paid out, Medicaid will have to be paid back and then depending on the amount inherited, Medicaid will stop paying until the full inheritance is spent down,” the wealth management expert said.
If the person refused the inheritance in order to pass it on to their children, Medicaid would consider that a transfer of assets and impose a penalty period during which the person could not receive assistance.
As you can see, decisions involving inheritance and Medicaid can have tremendous impact on your financial future. Speak with a lawyer experienced in estate planning and asset protection.