By, Jody Hudspeth, Paralegal for The Law Offices of Carol Bertsch, PC
One of the many hats I wear as a paralegal is answering phone calls and emails from concerned loved ones and caregivers. This column, “The Elder Law Askit Basket”, features some of the scenarios we hear on a frequent basis. If you have a question you’d like to see answered here, please email me at: email@example.com.
My father’s health is failing, and his mind is starting to slip. He needs to go a nursing home, but he doesn’t have enough money to pay for one. I think he’d qualify for Medicaid, but I’m afraid Medicaid will take his house. Is there anything you can do to save his house? He’s worked so hard for it—we’d like to keep it in the family if at all possible.
I’m sorry you are dealing with this stressful situation. Having to put your dad in a nursing home is hard enough, and it’s even tougher when you’re worried about paying for it.
Let me explain how Medicaid works: there are certain assets you can have and still qualify. Fortunately, a house is one of those assets. The problem is that when your dad dies, the Medicaid Estate Recovery Program (MERP) will make a claim against his estate to reimburse itself for the amount Medicaid spent on his nursing-home care. This means MERP will make a claim against your father’s estate unless an exemption applies.
If none of the exemptions would apply to your situation, there are ways you can protect the house and other assets from MERP altogether. For example, a Lady Bird Deed might be an option. I suggest you consult an elder law attorney, such as Carol Bertsch, before your father dies. Meeting with an elder law attorney before he’s on Medicaid would be best. However, we may still be able to protect his house even if he’s already on Medicaid. You can email or call our office at (210)892-4555 to further discuss your situation.