Question: Ten years ago my mother gave one-half interest in her home to me. If she needs long-term care in a nursing home, is the house protected?
Answer: No, not completely. Your mother’s interest in the property will be considered a resource when she applies for Medicaid. However, the share she deeded to you is protected because the transfer was completed prior to the five-year look back period. Since she is not the sole owner of the property, she will not be denied Medicaid and they cannot force a sale of the property. However, Medicaid can place a lien on the property unless it is occupied by a (1) a spouse, (2) a minor child, (3) a child that is disabled or blind of any age, or (4) a sibling who has lived there for a year or more and has an equity interest. Please note that having an “equity interest” in the property does not necessarily mean that a sibling is named on the deed. Proof that the sibling contributes to the care and maintenance of the property may be sufficient. If a lien is placed on the property, Medicaid can recover only the amount expended for nursing home care up to the date of sale. Additional planning should be done if there are excess sale proceeds.
It is important to note that if you still live in your Mother’s home, and have lived there for two years immediately preceding your her admission to a nursing home, then your Mother’s half of the property can be transferred to you as the “caretaker child,” without penalty. Curiously, under New York law, if you are the “caretaker child” and your mother fails to transfer the property to you, Medicaid can put a lien on the property but, the Agency cannot enforce the lien as long as you reside there. They also cannot enforce the lien if the home is occupied by a (1) a spouse, (2) a minor child, (3) a child that is disabled or blind, or (4) a sibling who has lived there for a year or more and has an equity interest.
Under New York law, the house will remain an exempt asset if the owner has an “intent to return home.” In that event, no lien should be placed on the home. Furthermore, if a lien is filed against the home, the Agency must remove it if the Medicaid applicant does return home, even for one day.
By Nancy Burner, Esq. and Robin Daleo, Esq.