In our last blog post, we were discussing the concept of asset protection, or as it is commonly asked, “How do I keep the Nursing Home from taking Momma’s farm” (or house, or money or whatever).
As we mentioned in that blog post, the Nursing Home doesn’t have the power to “take” anything. When you move into a Nursing Home, you are really just renting a room with nursing services included. If you rented a room for a night at your local Holiday Inn, the issue of “will I have to pay this” would never come up. You would know up front what the cost was and you would know that you had to pay for the room if you were going to stay there for a night.
The owner of a nursing home is like the owner of the hotel – he just wants to be paid for the room. He knows that there are 3 primary ways he will be paid: (1) If Mom goes to the hospital first, stays there for at least 3 nights, then is discharged to the Nursing Home, Medicare will pay for up to 100 days (see separate blog post on Medicare Qualification); (2) After Medicare runs out, the resident will “private pay” meaning personally pay for the room out of their pocket until they have spent much of their money or other assets . (See separate blog post on Medicaid Qualification); (3) After they have paid most of their money to the nursing home for rental of a room, and otherwise qualified, they Medicaid will start paying the nursing home bill each month.
Now, all of that was a pre-curser of what we’re talking about today, which is how to I protect what I’ve got so I don’t have to spend it all down to get Medicaid. The answer is to plan ahead, meaning - do your estate planning at least 5 years before you move into the nursing home. Of course you don’t know if or when that will happen, so you have to be proactive and do your estate planning way in advance.
On February 8, 2006, President Bush signed into law, the DRA (Deficit Reduction Act). Among other things, one of the provisions of the act was a 5 year look-back rule. This means that if you give your assets to your kids (or anyone else) within 5 years of the time you apply for Medicaid assistance, they can “look-back” and pull that gift up to today. The result is that Mom won’t be able to get Medicaid for a while (figure according to a complicated formula) as a result of having made that gift. If your parent is in that situation, there are things we can do, but none of them are as good as the results we can get if you plan ahead.
One great way we can be proactive, plan ahead and protect assets, such as the family farm, is by use of a special kind of Irrevocable Trust that we will discuss in Part 2 of this post