For many people, retirement planning will include downsizing and budgeting for the future. One area that can sometimes get overlooked during this process is Medi-Cal planning. Unlike Medicare, Medi-Cal (California’s Medicaid program) pays for long-term care services such as those provided in nursing home and assisted living settings. Medi-Cal is income-sensitive, meaning that there are limitations on the “countable resources” you can have while still qualifying for the program. Sometimes, applicants try to meet Medi-Cal’s requirements by giving their money and property to others before applying. However, it’s vital that you transfer your assets properly before you apply for Medi-Cal. Here are some common mistakes people make when transferring assets to qualify for Medi-Cal.
Not Understanding the Medi-Cal “Look-Back” Period
When people find out they have too many assets to qualify for Medi-Cal, they sometimes believe that all they need to do is give some of them away. However, some of these transfers may be disqualifying. In California, the Medi-Cal program looks at applicants’ financial transactions during the 60-month period before they applied for benefits. The 60-month timeframe is called the Medi-Cal “look back” period. Medi-Cal will consider all of the applicant’s transfers during the review period. In this context, a transfer means a gift or sale of an asset. Some transfers, such as the sale of an asset for less than fair market value, may not be permissible. If a transfer is deemed disqualifying, Medi-Cal will calculate a period of ineligibility for nursing facility level of care.
Not Understanding Asset Exemptions
Medi-Cal applicants can have up to $2000 in property and personal assets while still qualifying for program benefits. This amount is more if the individual is married. At first glance, it may appear that a qualifying Medi-Cal applicant cannot have very many assets. However, the Medi-Cal program includes exemptions. These exemptions allow an applicant to retain certain property, such as their home and vehicle, without counting the property’s value for eligibility purposes. By understanding the asset exemptions, you can plan for Medi-Cal eligibility while retaining some of your property.
Not Planning with Your Spouse
When a married person needs Medi-Cal, it’s essential that they plan for Medi-Cal eligibility with their spouse. Medi-Cal has specific rules and requirements regarding an applicant’s spouse’s income and assets. There are also different requirements when both partners need to qualify for Medi-Cal. Before transferring assets, it’s essential to know how these rules operate and what property your spouse is entitled to keep.
Not Considering Your Estate Plan
Although Medi-Cal is means-tested, there may be ways to protect your assets and ensure that they pass to your loved ones while still qualifying for coverage. An experienced Medi-Cal and estate planning attorney can help you evaluate your situation and identify ways to estate plan while protecting your assets before, during, and after you qualify for Medi-Cal benefits.
Not Working with an Experienced Medi-Cal Planning Attorney
Medi-Cal is a complex program with several rules and requirements, and it’s crucial to plan for your eligibility before the need arises. The best way to help prepare for your Medi-Cal eligibility is by working with an experienced Medi-Cal planning attorney. Your Medi-Cal planning attorney can help you understand the program’s rules and assist you in protecting your assets while preparing for your eligibility.
If you have questions regarding Medi-Cal planning, the time to get information is now. By contacting a California Medi-Cal planning attorney, you can learn more about the program and how to prepare for the future.
Contact a California Medi-Cal Planning Attorney
At the Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo, we are experienced California Med-Cal and estate planning attorneys who can help you evaluate your situation and start your solution. Please get in touch with us online or by phone to set up a free consultation today.