Many senior citizens in Milwaukee, as well as those who are approaching retirement age, should carefully consider how the plan to pay for a nursing home or assisted living should those arrangements become necessary.

As this blog has mentioned before, Medicaid planning, and any long-term care planning for that matter, is a complicated process wrought with many pitfalls.

Someone who is not aware of the legal issues may find themselves unable to pay for the nursing home care that they need. Perhaps just as bad, they may have to drain their entire savings and legacy on medical costs.

An example of a pitfall is that seniors in Milwaukee need to be careful about giving away or disposing their assets if they think they will need to apply for Medicaid in order to cover their nursing home care.

As with other states, Wisconsin residents can qualify for Medicaid if their income and assets fall below a certain threshold. Some might reason that giving away assets to their loved ones is a good way to make sure this happens.

That thinking only goes so far, though. With a few narrow exceptions, the Medicaid program will penalize seniors who are trying to qualify for Medicaid to pay for their nursing home stay but do so through gifting to relatives, even if they would have passed along the property via inheritance after their deaths.

Specifically, if a resident gives away significant assets within 5 years of applying for benefits, then Medicaid will not cover nursing home stays for a certain number of months after the person establishes eligibility.

How long the resident will not be allowed to use Medicaid to pay for a nursing home will depend on both how many gifts the person made within the 60 month look-back and the amount of each gift. During the penalty period, Medicaid will simply not be a source of funding for families needing to pay for nursing home care.

Planned gifting can be a viable part of one’s overall legal strategy to protect their legacy, but the process needs to be handled with skilled and experienced care.