Not a week goes by without someone calling our office for information and advice because a family member needs nursing home placement. They are fearful and suffering great stress, because not only is it heart wrenching to see a loved one reduced to dependence on others, but there is a tremendous fear that they are going to lose their home.
With a single person, this fear is valid. Although a home is “exempt” when someone applies for benefits, the state’s rules make it virtually impossible to keep the home. A single person’s income is used on care and there are no often funds left for utilities and property taxes. This forces the family to sell the home, resulting in a cash distribution. This cash then needs to be spent on care and the value of the house has now been lost.
In a husband and wife situation, this is not always the case. The home will be an exempt asset as long as the healthy spouse lives in it as his or her principle residence. That bit of knowledge alone should reduce some of the fear and stress of needing a nursing home.
But like everything else, when dealing with complicated governmental regulations, there is much more to it than simply saying the home is protected. Most husbands and wives own their homes jointly. This is sensible during most of their lives. When one of them becomes sick, however, this may no longer be wise. If the “healthy” spouse should die before the “sick” one, ownership passes to the sick one, and then the full value of the house could be lost to the state. For elderly people this is a real possibility, but may be preventable.
That old Boy Scout motto of “Be Prepared” is a wise motto to follow. Estate planning is complicated and readers are urged to seek legal advice before taking action. To learn more, consider attending one of our Free Educational Workshops. We will be in Mars at 2 PM on September 7th, Butler at 2 PM on September 13th, Franklin at 6 PM on September 14th, or Meadville at 6 PM on September 21st. For more workshop options, or to register, visit our website at www.HeritageElderLaw.com and click on the Workshops Tab, or call (724) 841-0004.