Medicaid Planning Lawyer Helping Residents in New Bedford, Hyannis, and Easton
Medicaid is a joint federal and state healthcare program that is known as MassHealth in Massachusetts. The program is designed to assist individuals with low income and limited resources and also provides vital long-term healthcare services to elders who may be eligible. Because Medicaid is a means-tested program, certain financial conditions must be met for you to qualify, which means it is important to plan ahead. Given the complexity of Medicaid’s eligibility rules, consulting an experienced Medicaid planning attorney is essential.
At Surprenant and Beneski, P.C., we work with clients from all walks of life to help plan for the future and their likely medical needs. We specialize in estate planning and long-term care planning, which also involves Medicaid planning. Our partners, Daniel Surprenant and Michelle Beneski, are certified as elder law attorneys by the National Elder Law Foundation, which makes our firm uniquely qualified to assist you with Medicaid planning. If you have questions about Medicaid or any other aspect of long-term care planning, we can help. When you consult us, we will provide you with knowledge, compassion and the personal attention you deserve.
Generally, you must meet certain requirements — residency, age and/or disability, income limitations, and asset limitations — to qualify for Medicaid. Moreover, there are a number of Medicaid programs in Massachusetts that provide long-term care for elders, and the benefits and eligibility requirements of each program differ. These programs include:
Institutional/Nursing Home Medicaid
This is an entitlement available to any individual who qualifies and is only provided in nursing homes. The income and assets limits differ for individuals, for couples with only one spouse applying, and for couples with both spouses applying.
Medicaid Waivers/Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS)
Participation is limited for services provided at home, adult daycare, or assisted living with different income and asset limits for individuals, for couples with only one spouse applying, and for couples with both spouses applying.
Regular Medicaid is available to individuals at least 65 years old, blind or otherwise disabled. For an individual (or married couple with one spouse applying for Medicaid) to qualify, the applicant’s income cannot exceed $1,041 per month. Income includes wages, social security, pension payments, IRA withdrawals, and the like. The income threshold for a married couple with both spouses applying is $3,000.
Additionally, the countable assets for an individual (or married couple with one spouse applying) cannot exceed $2,000. For a married couple with both spouses applying, the countable assets cannot exceed $3,000. Countable assets include cash, stocks, bonds, investments, real estate, however, personal property (e.g., furniture, car) is excluded. There is also an exception for a home that is a primary residence, provided that the home is valued under $878,000 (in 2019). Finally, for a couple where only one spouse is applying, the non-applicant spouse can retain up to $126,420 of the couple’s joint assets (referred to as a Community Spouse Resource Allowance).
Planning for Medicaid
Because of Medicaid’s strict eligibility requirements, many individuals fail to meet the income or asset requirements, but still can’t afford the cost of healthcare on their own. This is where the legal team at Surprenant and Beneski comes in. Our Medicaid planning attorneys will assess your situation and devise innovative income and/or asset planning strategies to help you qualify for Medicaid if it becomes necessary. These strategies include:
- Qualified Income Trust — If you do not meet the income requirement but meet the asset requirement, a qualified income trust (“QIT”) can be established. In this arrangement, income over the eligibility threshold is transferred into the trust. The trust is irrevocable, however, which means it cannot be modified or terminated. In addition, the income housed on the trust can only be used for certain limited purposes.
- Irrevocable Funeral Trust — Irrevocable funeral trusts (“IFT”) are not considered assets for purposes of Medicaid eligibility. In an IFT, the individual or couple transfers money to the trust, which can only be used to pay for funeral arrangements. A properly structured IFT can ultimately help to meet Medicaid’s asset requirement.
- Annuities — For a couple with only one spouse applying for Medicaid, annuities can be an effective method of reducing countable assets for the applying spouse. In this arrangement, a lump some is paid to the insurance carrier, which then makes a monthly payment to the non-applying spouse, thereby converting countable assets into non-countable income. Annuities are complex financial instruments that require careful consideration, however.
- Medicaid Asset Protection Trust — A Medicaid Asset Protection Trust (MAPT) is a type of irrevocable trust into which assets, including a home, are transferred and are no longer considered owned by the Medicaid applicant. Although there is no limit on the value of assets than can be held by a MAPT, the assets must be transferred within the 5-year Medicaid lookback period.
- Spend Down — Another way to reduce countable assets is to spend the money that limits your ability to qualify for Medicaid, such as making home improvements (provided the value of the home does not exceed the excludable threshold), paying down debt, or giving annual gifts, as long as the gifts do not exceed $15,000 per year to each person and are made within the 5-year Medicaid lookback period.
Contact Our Southeastern Massachusetts Medicaid Planning Attorney
At Surprenant and Beneski, P.C., we have extensive experience advising clients on Medicaid planning and the state-specific Medicaid programs in Massachusetts. The sooner you call us, the sooner we can begin helping you qualify for Medicaid, while also protecting your assets and your loved ones. Please contact us today for a free consultation.