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Will Medicaid Take My House?

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By Jessica A. Hayes

We hear this question all the time: “If I apply for Medicaid, will they take my house?” The answer is no; however, there are certain situations in which your home may be counted against you in determining whether you have too many available resources to meet the financial qualifications for long-term care Medicaid.  If the home is counted against you, then you simply will not qualify.

To qualify financially for long-term care Medicaid in Virginia, you must have countable assets (“resources”) totaling $2,000 or less. If you are applying for Medicaid and you are married, your spouse who is not receiving Medicaid may retain countable resources valued at one-half of your collective countable resources, or $120,900 (in 2017), whichever is lower.  Countable resources include (but are not limited to) bank accounts, investments, retirement accounts, and real property other than your primary residence.  Non-countable resources include one automobile, certain types of savings bonds and irrevocable prepaid funeral contracts, household goods and personal effects, and your primary personal residence, if you or your spouse are living there.

If you are applying for Medicaid to help pay for long-term care services in your own home, your home will not count against you. If you are applying for Medicaid to help pay for long-term care services in a nursing facility, but your spouse is remaining in the home, the home will not count against you.  If you are single and applying for Medicaid to pay for long-term care services in a nursing facility, then the home will not count against you for a period of six months, beginning on the date you left the home.  After you have been out of the home for six months, if there is no spouse remaining in the home, it is considered a resource available to you and from which you should be paying for your long-term care expenses.  To avoid having the home counted against you at that point, you will need to make a good faith effort to sell the home, by listing it for sale at its tax assessed value.  Failure to do so will mean that your Medicaid benefits end, and you will be responsible for the entire cost of your care.

There are steps we can take to protect your home and avoid having to list it for sale, with a little pre-planning. In certain situations, it makes sense to transfer a home to an irrevocable trust as a part of five-year planning before the need for long-term care arises (the transfer is subject to Medicaid’s five-year lookback period).  In other situations, we may be able to use the “caretaker child” exception and transfer the home without penalty to a child who has lived with you and cared for you for at least two years, preventing you from requiring care in a facility during that time.  There are other exceptions and strategies we may use, as well – transfers to a blind or disabled child or to a sibling who has lived in the home for at least a year and who has some interest in the property, for example, may be made without penalty.

Medicaid’s rules and regulations are intricate and frequently misunderstood. For questions relating to Medicaid eligibility and how you may qualify, work with a professional who is well-versed in this complex area of the law.

Kit KatAsk Kit Kat – Fake or Real Fur

Hook Law Center:  Kit Kat, how can you tell if fur is fake or real?

Kit Kat: Well, I know all the rage now is fake fur, but you have to be careful, because some retailers are still using real fur and advertising it as fake or ‘faux fur.’ The word “faux” is French for false or fake. To tell the difference, separate the fibers, and look to the base of the item. If you see a weave backing, then it is fake or faux. Also, the ends of the fur will be more blunt, and not tapered, as they would with real fur. I am not sure what the motivation to use faux fur is, but the practice is continuing. Frequent sources of real fur are factory-farmed raccoons, dogs, and rabbits.

Thank goodness the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) continues to monitor this situation. What they have found is not good news. All types of retailers from discount to high-end stores pass off real fur items as faux, when they are not. HSUS has alerted the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) that they have found 37 items sold by 17 retailers that are still using real fur. They make coats, footwear, purses, and keychains from the real fur. Up to now, the FTC has not fined any companies, but they have the power to do so. Pierre Grzybowski of HSUS says HSUS’ latest information is the result of 4 years of data collection. Until stronger action is taken by the FTC, the consumer can help by assuming that “anything that looks like animal fur might well be,” says Gryzbowski. Don’t fall for the fake products. Boycotting these items will speak volumes to retailers. (“Are you sure your fur is fake?” All Animals, November/December 2016, p. 9)

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Posted on Tuesday, January 31st, 2017. Filed under Newsletter.