One of the most frequently asked questions I receive as an elder law attorney in Walnut Creek, CA is, “Can the State of California take my home if I die after having been on Medi-Cal?”
The state will not actually take your home. But your home, if it is in your estate when you die, can be subject to a claim by the state after your death for the amounts the state has paid for your care. This claim will be paid when your property is sold from your estate. The state can only recover for the amounts they have actually paid for your care. Presently the amount they can recover is $7,092 per month, minus the share of cost that you have contributed to a nursing home. This amount of course would be less than what you would have paid as a private pay patient in a nursing home.
In order to establish your home as an exempt asset when you apply for Medi-Cal, you must confirm your intent to return home if you have entered a nursing home. There is a question on the Medi-Cal application which allows you to establish this intent.
The state will not pursue a claim for reimbursement against a surviving spouse of a Medi-Cal recipient as long as she is still living in the property. When she dies, the state will pursue the claim against any assets she received from her spouse, including the home, if he was a Medi-Cal recipient. In addition, the state cannot pursue a claim against the home if the Medi-Cal recipient is survived by a minor, blind or disabled child.
There are techniques allowed by the state for protection of the home from a claim after death. For instance, we can “transmute” or transfer the ill spouse’s interest in the home to the well spouse during his life, and reserve a life estate to the well spouse. We can also transfer the home from a single Medi-Cal recipient to his children, for instance, and reserve a life estate to the Medi-Cal applicant. Transfers such as these must be done correctly and pursuant to the regulations in order to avoid a state claim, and in order to avoid capital gains issues. Please be aware that there is no protection for the home if it is in the revocable living trust of the Medi-Cal recipient when he passes away. Asset protection planning must be accomplished while the Medi-Cal recipient has good mental capacity. Otherwise, we may have to go to court to correct the problem. Do not rely on the idea that your financial durable power of attorney and revocable living trust will allow you to make these transfers during mental incapacity. The estate planning documents require specialized language in order to do this, and most plans do not have the requisite language.
Keep in mind that the state cannot make a claim against assets that are not in your estate when you die. You will need the help of your elder law attorney aka your asset protection attorney in order create a long term care and asset protection plan for you.
Written Michael J. Young, elder law attorney, Medi-Cal attorney, senior law attorney and probate attorney in Walnut Creek, CA and former in-house counsel for title insurance companies. Mr. Young is a Medi-Cal attorney and is VA Certified. He is a member of NAELA www.WalnutCreekElderLaw.com LawYoung1@Gmail.com 1931 San Miguel Dr., Suite 220, Walnut Creek, CA 94596. 925-256-0298. Mr. Young serves Contra Costa and Alameda Counties, including the cities of Walnut Creek, Alamo, Danville, Concord, Brentwood, Pleasant Hill, Antioch, Clayton, etc. Mr. Young advises clients regarding Probates, Probates with Real Estate, Medi-Cal, nursing homes, asset protection, the VA Aid and attendance pension benefit, and long term care planning. Mr. Young is an Elder Law Attorney and Probate Attorney with offices in Walnut Creek, CA. Walnut Creek Elder Law Attorney, Walnut Creek Probate Attorney. Senior Law Attorney