September 16, 2021 | Estate Planning
Can the Nursing Home Take My House?
Get the Facts on this Tough Question
The transition to a nursing home can be unexpected and hard enough—whether it’s you, a spouse, or a loved one that requires long-term care. Concern over losing a home doesn’t make that transition any easier. So, let’s get down to the facts.
Yes, your home may be used to pay for your long-term care, but how that happens might not be the way you’d envisioned. With the average cost of a private room in a nursing home exceeding $90,000 annually, many people require government assistance, such as Medicaid, to cover the bills. In turn, the state may seek to reimburse those costs, a term called right of recovery. Your circumstances, like whether you’re married or single, dictate how and when.
If You’re Married
If only one spouse requires long-term care, the other will be able to stay in their home. However, the state keeps track of how much financial help is received and will put a lien on the house to recoup what it paid in long-term care costs. Once both spouses pass, the proceeds from the sale of the home will go toward settling the lien.
But what happens if the spouse in the nursing home survives the spouse that remains at home? In that case, the state may require you to sell your home to fund your nursing home costs. There are, however, grey areas that could allow your home to stay in your family—for instance if an adult child lived in the home with you and acted as a caretaker for the nursing home resident for a period of two years or more, or if you have a permanently disabled child. In these cases, it may be possible to transfer ownership of the home to them without penalty. It’s important to consult with an elder care or estate planning attorney as soon as possible in circumstances like these to evaluate your options.
If You’re Single or Widowed
If you don’t have a spouse or dependent occupying the home, you’ll need to sell it to qualify for assistance. If you die before the home sells, a lien could be placed on the home and some or all of the proceeds may be used to reimburse the state for the cost of your care.
Just as above, there are some exceptions to the rule, including if an adult child was caring for you in the home for a certain period of time. You’ll want to discuss these scenarios with an attorney early on to ensure you’ll meet the criteria.
What You Can Do
Can these scenarios be avoided? Yes, with some advance planning you may be able to protect your home for future generations. Thankfully you have options, but those options begin to diminish with time. Early action is important.
We know how heartbreaking this situation can be, from adult children who learn of a lien on their childhood home after their parents pass, to seniors who fight to keep possession of a beloved residence. That’s why we’re passionate about helping our clients develop strategies that preserve what’s most important. It’s not a one-and-done engagement, but rather one we address with heart, for life, for every client we serve.