When it Could be OK to Give Assets Away When Planning for Long Term Care (Nursing Home)

Not long ago, I posted a blog on gift transfers and their affect on qualification for MassHealth (Medicaid) for an institutionalized individual. Generally, transferring assets to dispose of property so that you qualify for MassHealth will not actually help you qualify because the state imposes a five-year “look-back” period, in which those assets are counted and used to assess eligibility for MassHealth. Fortunately, there are some exceptions to the general rule.

Under the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, an individual may still be eligible for MassHealth if certain assets were transferred to specific individuals. One of your biggest assets is probably your home. You can transfer title to your home to the following individuals without it being counted and without subjecting you to the 5-year look-back period: (1) your spouse; (2) your child who is under age 21, or is blind or permanently disabled; (3) your brother or sister who has lived with you for at least one whole year prior to the day you entered an institution and holds an equity interest in the home; or (4) your “caregiver” child.

caregiver-childA “caregiver” child is a son or daughter that lived with you for the two whole years prior to the date you entered an institution and provided the care you needed to remain in your home. If you were healthy enough to live in your home without your child’s help, a transfer of your home to that child will not protect you from the transfer rules. All other assets can also be transferred without being counted or subjecting you to the 5-year look-back period if they are transferred correctly and fall within the other exceptions to the general rule.

Any and all assets can be transferred to your spouse or to someone else for the sole benefit of your spouse. Your spouse may also transfer any and all of the assets to someone else for the sole benefit of your spouse. This means that someone else would hold legal title to the property, but it would only be used for the needs and wishes of your spouse.

Assets may also be transferred to your child if he or she is blind or permanently disabled. You have the option of transferring such assets directly to your child or to a trust for the sole benefit of your child. Either way, these gifts would not be subject to the new transfer rules.

Finally, you may transfer any and all of your assets to a trust for the sole benefit of any disabled person under age 65. Under this exception, a disabled individual is someone whose mental or physical impairment is so severe that he or she will be unable to perform substantial gainful work in order to provide for him or herself. This mental or physical impairment must be expected either to result in death, or to last continuously for a period of at least one year. There is no statutory requirement that you be related to this disabled individual for your transfers to fall within the exception.

While exceptions to the general rule on transfers of gifts do exist, it is very important that you speak with an attorney before making any transfers to ensure that you will still qualify for MassHealth. The 5-year look-back period is a long time to wait to be eligible for the services you need.

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