Elderly Woman With a Nurse at a Nursing Home

If you’re asking this question, it probably means you are aware of the income and asset tests you must pass in order to qualify for Medicaid to pay for long-term care. You understand that, along with not exceeding a certain monthly income, the spouse who is applying for Medicaid cannot have more than $2,000 in countable assets. You’re wondering if you can put your joint assets into your name so that your wife will qualify for Medicaid. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

All Assets Are Considered Joint Assets

While the law does allow for assets to be set aside for the spouse who is not going into the nursing home (the community spouse), you cannot put all of the couple’s assets into that person’s name. Instead, all countable assets—this excludes the family home, most personal possessions, one car, and pre-paid funeral expenses—are divided in half. The community spouse has access to half for his own care and expenses, with a minimum set aside amount of $25,728 and a maximum of $128,640 in 2020. There may be strategies available to increase the maximum amount that can be set aside for the community spouse, but this possibility should be discussed with an expert. The other half of the couple’s countable assets are used to pay for the nursing home. Once that half is below $2000, the spouse can qualify for Medicaid.

Using Assets for the Community Spouse’s Benefit

In order for the spouse in need of long-term care to qualify for Medicaid benefits more quickly, it is possible to spend down her half of the money. However, there are certain things you can and cannot spend the money on. You cannot gift the money to a child or grandchild, for example. You can, however, spend the money on home improvements, car maintenance, or a pre-paid funeral plan. This way, the community spouse’s assets are protected, his quality of life is enhanced, and the other spouse qualifies for Medicaid benefits faster.

Don’t Take These Steps Without Speaking to an Elder Law Attorney

If you have significant resources, it’s important that you do what you can to protect them for the future. Medicaid planning is one way to do this, but you must work with an Elder Law professional to make sure it’s done right. A misunderstanding of the law can lead to very costly mistakes for you and your spouse who needs long-term care. Contact the Elder Law attorneys at Ross & Shoalmire, P.L.L.C., to find out how we can help you and your spouse live the lives you envisioned for yourselves. We are here to help!


Chris Parker
Chris Parker helps clients in TX and AR with medicaid and estate planning, asset protection, and probate.