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Protecting Your Assets When Your Spouse Enters a Nursing Home

Protecting Your Assets When Your Spose Enters a Nursing Home

As life progresses, the need for long-term care, such as nursing home care, can become a reality for many individuals. It is estimated that 70% of seniors over age 65 will need to spend some time in a long-term care facility.  The cost of care can be shocking.  The average monthly rate for nursing care in Pennsylvania is almost $12,000.  This can bring about concerns regarding the protection of assets, particularly for the spouse who remains at home.  How will you pay to remain at home AND pay for nursing care?  Your life savings could be wiped out by the cost of care.


It’s important to understand the options available to protect assets while ensuring that your loved one receives the care they need. Here are some strategies to consider:


1. It’s Not Too Late to Plan!

The most effective planning to handle nursing home costs is done several years in advance.  But that doesn’t mean it’s too late to preserve assets once your loved one is in long-term care or nursing care.  An experienced elder law attorney can give you a variety of strategies to preserve your savings, so they aren’t all expended paying for care.


2.  Understand Medicaid Rules

Medicaid is available to pay for nursing home care but has strict asset limits for eligibility. Understanding these rules can help you plan effectively. In many cases, the spouse living at home (referred to as the "community spouse") can retain a portion of the couple's assets without affecting the eligibility of the spouse in the nursing home.


3. Spousal Impoverishment Rules

Medicaid rules include protections to prevent the community spouse from becoming impoverished. These rules allow the community spouse to keep a portion of the couple's combined income and assets, including the home, a car, some savings (Up to $150,000 in Pennsylvania in 2024) and personal belongings.  It may be necessary to re-title or spend savings to take advantage of some of these protections.


4. Asset Protection Trusts

In some cases, setting up an irrevocable trust can help protect assets. Assets placed in the trust are no longer considered the property of the individual and may not be counted toward Medicaid eligibility.  They may also avoid a lien to repay Medicaid benefits after your loved one passes away.  This option requires careful planning and can be done even if you believe nursing care might be needed even in a year or two.


5. Review and Update Estate Planning Documents

Ensure that your will, trusts, and other estate planning documents are up to date and reflect your current wishes. This can help ensure that your assets are protected and distributed according to your wishes.  It may be important for you to disinherit your spouse in the facility so that the money you leave them does not end up disqualifying them for Medicaid and goes to the nursing home instead of your family.


6. Consult with an Experienced Elder Law Attorney

Asset protection and Medicaid rules can be complex, so it's essential to consult with an attorney or financial advisor who specializes in elder law. They can help you navigate the rules and develop a plan that best protects your assets.


Call Us for Help


We’re here to answer any questions that you have about asset protection and Medicaid benefits.  It's important to remember that each situation is unique, and what works for one couple may not work for another. The experienced attorneys at Fiffik Law Group understand the intricacies of Medicaid rules and asset protection can help you develop a plan that meets your specific needs and goals. By taking proactive steps, you can help protect your assets while ensuring that your spouse receives the care they need. 


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