Many people that I meet have either heard of or think they know something about Medicaid’s 5-year lookback rule, but most people do not know exactly what it means. For example, they may not realize that there are certain transfers (gifts) during that 5-year period that don’t have any impact on Medicaid eligibility. These are called exempt transfers.
Transfers between spouses, including during the 5-year lookback period, are exempt for Medicaid eligibility purposes. This means that if you need nursing home care immediately, you can transfer your assets to your spouse without affecting your Medicaid eligibility.
Similarly, if you have a child who is disabled and receiving Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, you can transfer assets to that child without any penalties to your Medicaid benefit. However, you have to be careful because increasing the assets of a child who is receiving SSI, which is a means-tested program, will affect their benefits. In that case, you may want to look into setting up a trust, which will enable you to give them the same assets while protecting their SSI benefits, instead of directly transferring the assets to them.
You can also transfer your home to a “caretaker child” without affecting Medicaid eligibility. A caretaker child is a child who has lived with you for at least two years immediately prior to your needing nursing home care and who has provided care to you at home during those two years. It is important to note that this transfer only relates to your home. It does not relate to liquid assets.
Medicaid rules are complicated, and there are significant exceptions to some of the rules. In order to protect more of your assets and optimize your Medicaid benefits, it is important to consult with an experienced elder law attorney who not only understands the rules but, just as importantly, knows of the exceptions.
Contact the Russo Law Group P.C. to discuss your situation.