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It Is Not Always Better to Give Than to Receive

It Is Not Always Better to Give Than to Receive Image

If there is a possibility that a loved one might need Medicaid assistance in the foreseeable future, that person should not be giving gifts. This can be sad if that person gets joy out of generosity. But gifts in that situation can turn out to be very, very expensive.

Medicaid is the government program that covers the huge expense of long-term care, for those who are not able to pay for it out of their own pocket. But to be eligible, Medicaid applicants must be pretty much broke. They are permitted to own no more than around $2,000.00.

On the filing of a Medicaid application, caseworkers will meticulously investigate the applicant’s financial history. They are looking to see whether an applicant has given away money or assets over a period of years before the Medicaid application is filed. That period of years is known as the “look-back” period. In all states except California, that period for nursing-home care is five years under the current rules. In California the period is 2.5 years.

Depending on the size and number of gifts given away during the “look-back” period, the penalty imposed as a result could be substantial.

Many think that there would be no penalty for gifts of up to around $15,000 annually. That misunderstanding confuses tax law with Medicaid law (and it also is not quite accurate under tax law, but that’s another subject). In the Medicaid context, gifts of any amount that are given during the look-back period can be penalized.

There are a number of options to protect assets and still qualify for Medicaid. For instance, exceptions include gifts to spouses and siblings under certain circumstances, disabled children, and children who are caregivers and who live at home with the elder for a span of time. But overall, gifts and Medicaid do not go together.

The Medicaid rules are complicated and the consequences for mistakes like gift-giving can be very costly. This is why it’s best to consult attorneys like us, who are especially qualified by our experience and expertise in Medicaid law.  And if you are outside of Florida, please contact an experienced Elder Law Attorney (preferably one that is Board Certified in Elder Law) to assist you.  

Jason A. Penrod is only the 20th attorney to be Board Certified as an Elder Law Expert by the Florida Bar and the National Elder Law Foundation.  He is the founder of Family Elder Law (www.familyelderlaw.com) which has offices in Lakeland, Lake Wales, and Sebring, Florida.

  • National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys - Florida Family Elder Law

  • Life Care Planning Law Firms Association

  • Florida Family Elder Law Office

  • Family Elder Law Lakeland Florida Area Chamber of Commerce Member

  • Family Elder Law Lake Wales Florida Area Chamber of Commerce Council Member

  • Family Elder Law Greater Sebring Florida Chamber Of Commerce Member

  • Family Elder Law Florida Bar Certified

  • Family Elder Law Florida Elder Counsel Member

  • Life Care Planning Law Firms Association

  • Life Care Planning Law Firms Association

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