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Can Medicaid Take My Home Away From Me?

by Jeffrey Asher, Estate Planning Expert
July 07, 2011

Question: I was told Medicaid or a nursing home can take my home. Is that true?

Answer: No, it is not true.  A home is exempt from Medicaid for so long as it has an equity value of less than $750,000, and it is the Medicaid applicant’s primary residence or the primary residence of a spouse, minor child, or an adult child who is certified blind or certified disabled.  When a Medicaid applicant is living outside of the home, but has an intent to return home, the home will continue to be exempt for Medicaid purposes, without regard to the applicant’s actual ability to return home.  However, if the home has an equity value of $750,000 or more, or if the applicant or his or her family member(s) no longer reside in the home, then the home is deemed a “countable resource” for Medicaid purposes.  This means that Medicaid can include its value in the applicant’s list of assets to determine whether or not he or she qualifies for Medicaid.  This, still, does not mean that Medicaid or a nursing home can take the applicant’s home.  It merely means that Medicaid may have the ability to place a lien on the home to be repaid the cost of its services when and if the home is ever sold.
However, there is a different answer when a guardian is appointed by the court to assist in obtaining Medicaid benefits.  For example, if you reside in a nursing home and the nursing home is not being paid, the nursing home may apply to the court for the appointment of a guardian in order to pay the bills and/or obtain Medicaid.  When this happens, the guardian is typically given the power by the court to sell your assets, whatever they might be, including your home.  So, while Medicaid and/or the nursing home cannot take your home, the court-appointed guardian may have to sell your home in order to pay the nursing home and/or qualify you for Medicaid benefits.  A proper elder care plan, including planning for a nursing home and/or Medicaid, will typically avoid this scenario.  But, it is always good to know ‘what if?’ when it comes to your disability and long-term care planning.

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Jeffrey Asher is a prominent Trusts & Estates and Elder Law attorney in Westchester County and New York City. Mr. Asher concentrates primarily in the areas of Estate Planning, Probate and Estate Administration, Elder Law, Medicaid Planning, and Special Needs Planning. Mr. Asher provides comprehensive legal services, tailored to meet your specific needs.

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