When most people make an estate plan, they think about how that plan can help take care of their spouse and future generations when they pass. But careful estate planning can also protect you from ruinous medical costs in the later years of your life.
In addition to arranging for the transfer of your assets after you’re gone, your estate plan can also help you qualify for long-term care programs such as Medicaid.
Qualifications for Medicaid
Medicaid is primarily a needs-based program. This means that you can only qualify for Medicaid if you meet certain financial criteria. Most commonly, these criteria relate to limits on your assets and your monthly income.
An important thing to remember about qualification is the look-back period. The look-back period is the five-year period leading up to your application date. In order to qualify for Medicaid, you must have continuously met the financial requirements during this period.
Estate planning and care
There are many ways that planning can help you get the care that you need in your later years. These methods can include:
- Income or asset trusts: Transferring assets and income to a trust can help you get within Medicaid’s asset requirements. When you establish a trust, you will also name a beneficiary who will receive the trust’s assets after you pass.
- Spousal transfers: Medicaid laws allow for transfers between spouses, so that an ill spouse may qualify for benefits while still receiving financial support from the spouse.
- Private annuities: An annuity is an insurance policy that gives the holder income. An annuity can be used to pay off Medicaid penalties if you’ve transferred money within the look-back period. They can help pay for Medicaid expenses while allowing beneficiaries to retain the transferred assets.
Because of Medicaid’s look-back period, it is important that you do not start this process too late, as any transfers or gifts you make within five years of your application will be subject to penalties.
Having a plan in place for your estate may save it from dwindling with future medical costs. A skilled estate planning attorney can help you with the process to make sure that you make the best choices for your estate.