Medicaid Planning for Married Couples
Zacharia Brown has been providing Elder Law Services since 1995. One of the most important services we provide on a daily basis is to married couples, where one spouse is at home (the community spouse) and the other is in a nursing facility. Our work with these cases provides a tremendous source of satisfaction for our attorneys. More than anyone else, a married couple in this situation requires the services of an elder law attorney.
The Community Spouse
The rules for Medicaid benefits for married couples are extremely confusing and almost impossible to navigate without the expertise of an elder law firm like Zacharia Brown. There are unique rules for married couples which ensure that the Community Spouse can continue to be self-sufficient and does not become impoverished. However, these rules must be applied in a fashion that serves the Community Spouse both now AND in the future.
Understanding Spend Down
Another complex rule for Medicaid benefits for married couples that can be misunderstood is that Medicaid will only become available after a married couple spends down one-half of their life savings. Under this rule, a Community Spouse is entitled to keep one-half of the couple’s savings (not to exceed certain maximum amounts). The remainder of the savings must be spent down.
Too many people believe that they must use the one-half of their life savings that is being spent down on the nursing facility. That is NOT the law and never was. If your spouse is in a nursing home and you are required to spend down half of your life savings, you will need to analyze a significant number of issues. You do not need to automatically dispense this “spend down” amount on the nursing home. You will need to consider exactly what the Community Spouse needs, both now and in the future. Does he or she need a new vehicle? What about home improvements? These and many other items are allowable expenditures for the required “spend down” money. Most importantly, the cost of hiring an attorney to help can also be an allowable expenditure, if done properly. You cannot give money away but you are able to spend it on yourself if you have the proper legal guidance in doing so.
Income for the Community Spouse
One other important consideration is the income that the Community Spouse will receive now and in the future. There are special rules for income that will allow the Community Spouse, under certain circumstances, to keep some or all of the income of the Nursing Home Spouse. In some situations, where the combined incomes are not enough for the Community Spouse to live on, he or she may be able to keep more (sometimes ALL) of the assets. In addition, there are circumstances where the Community Spouse can purchase a special type of annuity that will make certain that he or she always has enough income to pay the bills on a monthly basis. If you wait too long to seek out assistance and have incurred nursing home bills, it may be too late for either of these options.
How We Can Help
What would happen if the Community Spouse passes away BEFORE the Nursing Home Spouse? Do they have the appropriate estate plan in place? In many circumstances, if the Community Spouse passes away before the Nursing Home Spouse, the family risks losing THEIR ENTIRE LIFE SAVINGS. At Zacharia Brown, we work with our clients and put into place an estate plan that makes certain this does not occur.
It is critically important to seek out the assistance of Zacharia Brown if your spouse is either in a nursing home or going into a nursing home. You need to know that Medicaid WILL require you to spend down your savings. The first and best expenditure you can make with those funds is to hire Zacharia Brown to help you navigate these difficult and sometimes hostile waters.