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Is It Better to Sell a Medicaid Recipient's Home Now or Wait Until Her Death?

  • October 17th, 2013
My mother went from private pay to Medicaid pay in her nursing home January 1, 2013. She now has zero money and all of her Social Security goes to the nursing home. She has a modest, unoccupied home that I maintain and for which I pay all bills. She gave me power of attorney, so legally I can sell the home. Should I sell the home and effectively turn all of the assets over for her care or wait until her death, at which point Medicaid will take the proceeds from the sale of the home anyway? Also, she is 85 and has late-stage dementia/Alzhheimer's.

There’s no one answer to this question for everyone. In most states, the Medicaid agency will have a lien against the house to recover what it has paid for your mother’s care when it’s sold, whether now or after she passes away. The benefit of keeping the house is that the Medicaid payment rate is usually substantially less than the private pay rate for nursing homes.  If you sell the house, your mother will go off of Medicaid and you will have to spend down the proceeds at the private rate. So you are generally better off delaying the sale of the house.

For example, if the private pay rate for the nursing home is $10,000 a month, but the state pays $7,000 a month for your mother’s care, then you ultimately save about $3,000 every month you delay selling the property.

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William Fralin

The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm PC
Bethesda, MD

Margaret O'Reilly

Margaret A. O'Reilly, PC
Herndon, VA

John Laster

Law Offices of John L. Laster
Falls Church, VA

That said, you need to balance this against the cost and trouble of maintaining the house. In addition, if she lives for a long time and the value of the house is small, your mother may run through the entire proceeds even at the Medicaid payment rate.

I would, however, suggest consulting with a local elder law attorney to see if there are circumstances in your situation or state that would lead to a different response.

For more on Medicaid planning, click here.

Last Modified: 10/17/2013

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