Elder couple at a nursing home.

How to Protect Your Assets When Your Spouse Needs Nursing Home Care

At some point, support from family and friends may not be enough for your spouse. When your spouse requires full-time health care, they may need to move into a Massachusetts nursing home. Many nursing homes offer full-time care that includes personal care, food, medical services, and housekeeping. Many nursing homes provide specialized help for residents with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. 

You may feel relief that your spouse will receive the care he or she needs in a nursing home. At the same time, you may have reservations about how you will pay for nursing home care. Massachusetts nursing homes are costly, some costing $150,000 or more a year. Protecting your hard-earned assets becomes a priority when your spouse needs a nursing home. 

Qualifying for MassHealth Nursing Home Coverage

One of the best ways to protect your assets when your spouse needs nursing home care is to qualify for MassHealth benefits. MassHealth is Massachusetts’ Medicaid program, and it offers individuals who are eligible insurance coverage for long-term care costs. 

Your income will need to fall below the income limits set forth by MassHealth. If you are married, and only your spouse needs nursing home care, you must own less than $128,640 in assets, or you will not qualify. MassHealth includes money in your bank accounts, investments, annuities, IRAs, and real estate in the countable amount. 

MassHealth does impose a five-year look-back period. If you transfer money to other people to meet the asset limits within five years of your application, MassHealth has the power to penalize you from eligibility and disqualify you for a specified period. 

How Much Income Can the Spouse Living at Home Make?

Typically, MassHealth will only consider the income that is in the MassHealth applicant’s name. The spouse in the nursing home will need to contribute most of his or her income toward nursing home care. What happens when the spouse living at home makes most of the married couple’s income? 

MassHealth will determine the minimum income level needed for the spouse who is living at home. When the income of the spouse living at home is less than the minimum monthly maintenance needs allowance, the income of the spouse in the nursing home can cover the shortfall. The formulas that MassHealth uses to determine who meets the income levels are complicated and confusing. We recommend meeting with one of our experienced elder law attorneys who can walk you through the process and help you understand your options. 

Creating a MassHealth or Medicaid Trust

All is not lost, however. An experienced estate planning lawyer can help you protect your assets and qualify for MassHealth at the same time. At Surprenant & Beneski, PC, we can help you create a special type of irrevocable trust. These trusts are often referred to as Medicaid trusts because they protect people’s assets while allowing them to meet the Medicaid income requirements. 

Your Medicaid trust must meet specific legal requirements. The trust needs to be irrevocable, meaning that you cannot change the trust agreement. Additionally, you cannot be the beneficiary of your trust. You can act as the trustee. You can change the beneficiaries of the assets in the trust, however. After creating the trust, you will need to transfer any assets you’d like to protect into the trust. The sooner you speak to an elder law attorney about creating a Medicaid trust, the better. 

Our Long Term Care Planning Lawyers Can Help

At Surprenant & Beneski, PC, we have helped many clients successfully apply for MassHealth benefits. Many of our middle-class clients are surprised to learn that they qualify for nursing home coverage through MassHealth. Our clients have the unique opportunity to work with Silvia, our dedicated MassHealth Case Manager. 

Silvia guides families through successfully applying for MassHealth Coverage. If your spouse is in a nursing home or needs to enter a nursing home, our elder law team can help. Contact Surprenant & Beneski, PC today to schedule your initial consultation as soon as possible.