Justin, my second husband has dementia and will need a nursing home soon. When my first husband died, I inherited around $135,000 from him, which I have always kept separate in my second marriage. I was recently told that Medicaid will take my inheritance from me when my husband goes into a nursing home. This is not his money! Can this be legal? – Pam
Pam, the bottom line is that the State does not take your money, no matter where it came from, when your spouse receives Medicaid coverage for nursing home care. But that does not mean your inheritance is safe. The problem you face will be qualifying for Medicaid as long as you still have your inheritance.
When your husband enters a nursing home, you will not be financially qualified for Medicaid, so you will have to privately pay the monthly charges out of your assets. You will have the right to choose which assets to use to pay the bill, but your inheritance is not shielded from these expenses. The bills will continue until you have spent down enough of your assets to reach Medicaid qualification. The State will not take your inheritance, but you will be required to pay it over to the nursing home, little by little, to cover the monthly charges unless and until you do something about it.
Although the law does not offer special protections just because the money you seek to protect is an inheritance, there are planning options available to you that will help your husband qualify for Medicaid quickly, without having to privately pay the nursing home charges until you spend down to some uncomfortable level. Speak to an Elder Law attorney to explore your options before wasting money.