The Family Home: Is it in Jeopardy if I Turn to Medicaid for Help?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

cottage_houseMedicaid rules define the home is as “... any property in which an individual has an ownership interest in and which serves as the individual's principal place of residence. Home includes the structures and land appertaining to the home property.  Appertaining land must be contiguous to adjoin the land on which the home property is located and must not be separated by intervening land property owned by others.”  Thus, my home includes any property that is adjacent or even across the street.

The word “individual” in the definition includes my spouse if I’m married.  It does not include my trust so, strangely, if my home is titled to my trust it is not my home for Medicaid purposes.

If I am unmarried and living there, then the first $525,000 in my home’s equity is exempt for Medicaid eligibility purposes.  The exemption amount is unlimited if my child who is under age 21 or blind or disabled lives there or, if I’m married, my spouse lives at the home.

If I move to a nursing home and then qualify for Medicaid benefits, the home loses its exemption 13 months later unless any of the following still live there:

  • my spouse;
  • my child who is under age 21 or blind or disabled;
  • my child who is age 65 or older and is financially dependent upon me for housing; or,
  • my sibling who owns an interest in the home and has resided there for at least one year immediately before the date I was admitted to the nursing facility.

If a home is no longer the principal place of residence of any qualified person, its exemption can be retained if it is listed for sale with a realtor at its “fair market value.”  FMV is presumptively the County Auditor’s value and any offer that is at least 90% of that amount must be accepted.  If the home remains unsold after six months, I must demonstrate why that is so in order to continue the exemption.

If I die after receiving Medicaid assistance to help pay for either (a) nursing home care, or (b) community care service via a waiver program (PASSPORT or Home Care Waiver) received after age 55, AND if I owned the home (or a portion of it) at my death, then:

  • if I was unmarried and left no disabled or minor children, my ownership interest is subject to an immediate claim by Medicaid’s estate recovery program to repay the State for money it spend on me;

or

  • if I am survived by a spouse, or by a disabled or minor child, my ownership interest is subject to a deferred (until my spouse or disabled child dies, or minor child reaches 18 years of age) claim by Medicaid’s estate recovery program.

While this information is accurate for Ohio, part of it will differ from state-to-state.  It is always best to consult a professional about how the Medicaid rules apply in any specific situation.

- Posted by Attorney David Myers

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