For people in Florida, preparing for future medical expenses can be a major concern. This is especially true when someone needs to take advantage of the long-term care provisions of Medicaid when dealing with serious disabilities or a need for memory care or other residential facilities. Spouses in particular may be concerned about the way Medicaid’s rules about assets relate to their future planning.

For a single person who needs to access Medicaid, including its nursing home coverage, they must have no greater than $2,000 in assets. Married couples are treated somewhat differently, and transfers of assets between spouses do not affect Medicaid’s assessment of a couple’s wealth. Some assets are excluded from the assessment, including the primary home if one spouse is able to live in it, one car and term life insurance that does not have cash value during life. All other assets are countable for Medicaid purposes, and the healthy spouse can retain up to approximately $121,000 of remaining assets.

Couples may consider a number of actions in order to protect themselves as well as their estate, including transferring gifts to children and others. Some spouses may even consider divorce; however, a divorce that transfers significant assets to the healthy spouse, called the community spouse, could be looked at as dubious. There is a five-year look back rule, which delays Medicaid eligibility based on prior transfers. Transfers that are often carried out for estate planning purposes, including annual exclusion gifts, can be considered in light of this rule.

For couples and individuals concerned about future medical planning, an elder care lawyer can provide important advice and counsel to help avoid asset depletion and plan for long-term care needs. Working with an attorney can help couples and individuals plan for their future medical expenses in a manner that is line with the law and in the best interests of their health. Medicaid planning can help to ease access to nursing home coverage while protecting the family’s interests.