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Asset protection for seniors going to nursing homes

Seniors in New York often depend on Medicare for their health care needs. Medicare benefits, however, are limited if a person needs to enter a nursing home. Only a set number of days are allowed through Medicare to recover from a surgery or illness in a skilled nursing facility. When the time period expires, then the patient and his or her family must pay the costs, which can accumulate quickly and erode the finances of the patient and family members.

Some solutions exist that allow a senior to protect assets even when moving into a nursing home. Long-term care insurance is one method. The owner of the policy pays premiums in order to gain financial protection in the event that he or she must move into a nursing home.

The Medicaid system provides another option. The rules vary from state to state, but Medicaid can pay for nursing home care if the patient meets certain medical and financial requirements. Generally, a person's asset level needs to be low to qualify for Medicaid, although some partial income and property exemptions are allowed for a spouse who is not on Medicaid.

Sometimes seniors who are anticipating the future need for costly nursing home arrangements include long-term care planning within their estate plans. An elder law attorney can suggest strategies for the protection of assets that would still allow a client to qualify for Medicaid instead of letting his or her life's savings go to the nursing home instead of heirs. Various methods such as trusts and advance gift giving among family members may enable a senior to meet their future nursing home needs.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Counting on Medicaid for Long Term Care?", Terry Savage, March 6, 2015

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