The cost of long-term care in a nursing home or even in your own home is already extremely high, and expenses are expected to rise in the near future. In Maryland, the average cost for a private room in a nursing home is well over $12,000 per month and many residents are paying close to $15,000 each month.

How can families absorb these costs? For many people, the answer is Medicaid. Long-term care benefits available through the program can go a long way to provide a safe, comfortable environment with the right level of care for seniors who can no longer manage on their own.

However, Medicaid benefits are only available to those who qualify, and that is where estate planning can prove highly beneficial for families. Instead of spending all assets on care needs, a strategic plan can enable you to make the best use of your assets while still establishing eligibility for the program. The team at Chesapeake Wills & Trusts are experienced at developing asset protection and Medicaid eligibility plans tailored to specific needs and goals. We know how to help seniors qualify without unnecessary delays or wasted expense.

Understanding Medicaid Rules

To receive benefits to cover the cost of long-term care in a nursing home or in your own home in Maryland, you need to establish five criteria:

  • Citizenship or LPR status in the U.S.
  • Maryland residency
  • The need for care
  • Income below the monthly threshold
  • Assets valued at an extremely low amount

Demonstrating the last two factors on the list is generally the most difficult, and it is the area where estate planning assistance can be so helpful. 

Some surprising rules apply when determining eligibility. For example, the Medicaid program considers not only the value of assets currently in your possession but also those you have given away, transferred into a trust, or even sold within the past five years. That means you cannot simply give your children all your property and establish eligibility for Medicaid the next day. There is a five-year lookback period for asset transfers, which includes instances where you sold property for less than market value.

However, there are some assets that are not counted when determining eligibility. Moreover, there are also situations where it may be possible for an attorney to demonstrate that assets that were given away not to establish Medicaid eligibility but for another legitimate purpose such as paying for college for a grandchild. We can develop a plan that maximizes available opportunities to conserve assets while building qualifications, and help you avoid some potential delays in eligibility.

Medicaid Eligibility Plans are Tailored to Your Circumstances

The right plan to establish eligibility for Medicaid long-term care benefits will be different in every situation. Plans vary according to whether the applicant is already in a nursing home, whether the applicant has a spouse who will continue to live in the family home, and the amount and types of assets that are countable under the rules. Your plan might include features such as:

  • Strategic investment in non-countable assets
  • Purchasing a Medicaid Complaint Annuity for a spouse
  • Entering into a Medicaid Complaint Promissory Note for a spouse
  • Gifting strategies
  • Preserving assets in a Medicaid Complaint trust

When you begin planning for long-term care needs before you actually need care, there are far more options available for conserving assets. However, even in a crisis situation when you or a loved one need to enter a nursing home right away, Medicaid crisis planning still offers many options for establishing eligibility for benefits without spending everything on care.

Because the rules are so strict, it is a good idea to work with an experienced attorney who understands precisely which arrangements will and which will not damage eligibility.

Timing Matters

Applying too early for Medicaid can result in penalties, but waiting too long to file can lead to unnecessary loss of assets. People often file an application for Medicaid as soon as they enter a nursing home, and the nursing home may even assist in the process. However, if the applicant is not qualified, that application will be denied, and a delay penalty may be applied. Instead, it is better to take steps to qualify first, which can often be accomplished much faster than waiting out the delay.

However, if you wait too long and don’t take advantage of strategies to establish eligibility, then you are wasting resources that could be used to support your family.

Chesapeake Wills & Trusts Can Help You Take Advantage of Medicaid Benefits

You and your loved ones do not need to spend everything on long-term care costs. It is important to learn how Medicaid benefits can assist in your particular situation and to get started promptly on plans to establish eligibility. At Chesapeake Wills & Trusts, we can build a long-range plan in advance or an accelerated crisis plan depending on your needs.

The cost of planning is far less than the amounts that can be lost to care costs in just a single month without Medicaid benefits. To talk to us about how a Medicaid plan could work in your situation, call today at 410-590-1900 or complete the online form to schedule a consultation.

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