Mary had been in a nursing home for almost a year. She had gone through most of her life savings paying for her daily care. Along with her home, she only had about $50,000 left.
No one at the nursing home had ever talked to her or her children about Mary going on Medicaid. Mary was in pretty good physical health, despite her Alzheimer’s disease. Her doctor felt that she could live for several more years. Clearly her money was not going to last that long. Her children did not want her to lose her family home – the home that Mary and her late husband had built themselves and wanted to keep in the family.
So Mary’s children scheduled a meeting with the administrator at the nursing home. Trying to be helpful, the administrator gave Mary’s children the name and phone number of the Medicaid (MO HealthNet) caseworker who handled cases for that nursing home.
Mary and her children were told by the caseworker that Mary would need to “spend down” her remaining funds until she was down to less than $999. Then she could apply for Medicaid. The caseworker said she would be happy to help them with any questions they had in filling out the application. When the caseworker was asked about the house, they were told to “not worry about the house. It won’t need to be sold – it’s exempt.”
So when the time came, the caseworker helped Mary’s family fill out the application. Mary’s application was approved…..no problem, right? WRONG!!!!!
By law, caseworkers cannot offer legal advice. If Mary’s family had consulted with a competent Elder Law Attorney with experience in handling Medicaid eligibility cases, over half of Mary’s remaining assets could have been protected and would not have to be spent down to pay for her nursing home care before she became eligible for Medicaid nursing home benefits.
Mary’s children thought they were saving money by letting the caseworker help. But it unknowingly cost Mary over $25,000 – money that could have been used to pay for other things like eyeglasses, dental work, clothes, toiletries, hair care, satellite TV, etc. Instead, as a Medicaid recipient, Mary could keep only $35 of her monthly income. So her children had to cover those other expenses out of their own pockets.
When Mary finally passed away, her children had hoped that Mary’s home would be kept in the family. They were shocked when they were told by the caseworker that the “exemption” on Mary’s home was temporary, and would end when the house was sold or Mary died, whichever occurred first. Instead, the house had to be sold and all of the proceeds of the sale had to be paid over to the State to satisfy its “estate recovery” lien against the house. With proper legal planning, the house could have been saved.
Don’t let this happen to you or your loved ones….. much better results can be achieved with proper legal planning. The sooner the planning is started, a greater amount of assets can be protected.
To set up your appointment with our experienced MO HealthNet attorneys, please call 314/962-0186.