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Seniors may qualify for Medicaid by spending down assets safely

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By Hook Law Center

Federal law dictates that only someone below a benchmark level of assets can qualify for Medicaid, beyond which it is determined that the individual does not have the assets to pay for his or her own care. Many seniors who apply do not receive Medicaid because their asset level is too high to qualify.

In order to qualify for Medicaid, it is sometimes prudent to “spend down” assets in order to reduce their value. Spending down should be done carefully, ensuring both continued financial security and the receipt of Medicaid.

Not all assets influence whether an individual can receive Medicaid, and these assets do not need to be spent down. A person’s home, car and physical possessions may not be counted. Prepaid funeral and burial arrangements and some cash may also be exempt. However, exemptions are determined on a case-by-case basis.

Medicaid programs allow individuals to spend down their assets on certain expenses. Assets may be used to pay off credit cards, mortgages or loans, including prepayment. They may be used for the prepayment of certain burial and funeral expenses.

The applicant can also use their existing assets to purchase an exempt asset, such as a home or automobile that meets the requirements for exemption. Assets can be used in the upkeep of non-countable assets, such as home repairs.

For people who are married, purchasing an annuity for the spouse can be an excellent way to spend down assets. An annuity guarantees the spouse a fixed income for a given number of years. Annuities purchased for the purpose of spending down must be non-transferable, and Medicaid must be listed as the primary beneficiary after the spouse’s death.

There are certain expenses that should not be used for spending down. For example, prepayment of caregiver services or other services is considered a gift and will actually cause the applicant to be ineligible for Medicaid for a period of time.

The process of spending down to quality for Medicaid can be complex. An estate planning attorney can assist in developing Medicaid planning strategies that are compatible with Virginia’s Medicaid regulations.

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Posted on Wednesday, August 27th, 2014. Filed under Estate Planning, Medicaid.
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