Unless you are fortunate enough to be able to pay out of pocket, during your retirement years there is good chance that you will need to qualify for Medicaid benefits to help cover the high cost of long-term care. You may have heard stories about how applying for Medicaid can negatively affect a spouse who is not in need of long-term care, leading you to ask “ How can I protect My spouse when applying for Medicaid? The best way to protect both you and your spouse is to include Medicaid planning in your estate plan early on in life; however, all is not lost if you failed to do that .
When you enter your “golden years” you stand a 50 percent chance of needing long-term care at some point in your life before you die. At age 85 that probability jumps to 75 percent. With an average yearly cost of around $80,000 and an average length of stay of two years, the average person cannot pay for long-term care out of pocket. Moreover, neither Medicare nor most private health insurance policies will cover long-term care costs. Medicaid, however, will cover long-term care expenses. For Medicaid to help though you must first qualify for benefits. Eligibility depends, in part, on your income and assets. If your assets exceed the program limits you will likely need to “spend-down” those assets before Medicaid will help. What happens though to a “community” spouse (the spouse who remains in the home) if you are forced to use your assets to pay for long-term care costs while waiting for Medicaid to help?
The good news is that not all assets are include in your available resources for purposes of Medicaid eligibility. Assets such as your primary residence are typically excluded, meaning your spouse will continue to be able to use the asset. In addition, federal “spousal impoverishment” rules protect a community spouse from being left without any income or resources. In addition, your spouse may be able to keep a percentage of your income each month as well if he/she does not have a too much income.
Planning early on in life by including Medicaid planning in your overall estate plan remains the best way to protect you, your assets, and your spouse; however, you may still have options if you find yourself in need of Medicaid and you are concerned about how your benefits will impact your spouse, be sure to contact the experienced Missouri estate planning attorneys at Amen, Gantner & Capriano, Your Estate Matters, LLC by calling (314) 966-8077 to schedule an appointment.