The odds of needing long-term care increase dramatically as you age. As the odds of needing long-term care increase, the odds of needing to qualify for Medicaid also increase. If you are married, and only one of you needs long-term care you may be concerned how the Medicaid rules will affect the other spouse. In other words, “ How does Medicaid apply to married couples in Illinois? ”
Medicaid is a federally funded program that is administered by the individual states. As a result, the eligibility requirements as well as the benefits offered can vary slightly from one state to the next. In all states, however, an applicant’s income and resources are important in the application process because they cannot exceed the pre-determined limits. When a married applicant applies, the income and resources of his/her spouse are also considered when determining eligibility.
Although the Medicaid eligibility rules are fairly complex, and the limits change on a yearly basis, the basic concepts are simple enough to understand. If you apply for Medicaid, your income as well as that of your spouse will be considered when determining eligibility. If you are applying because you need long-term care, your spouse will only be able to keep a certain amount of income each month. If your spouse’s income does not meet that limit, you may be able to give some of your income to your spouse each month up to the income limit.
Resources of both you and your spouse are also evaluated when determining if you qualify for Medicaid to help pay the high cost of long-term care. Certain assets, such as a home, a vehicle, and household furnishings, are exempt and are therefore not considered. You may only have $2,000 in non-exempt assets. Fortunately, your “community spouse” is allowed to keep much more in non-exempt assets. Just as with income, you may transfer assets to your spouse as well up to the limit if your personal assets exceed the $2,000 limit. Transferring assets, however, can become tricky rather quickly which is why you should always consult with your estate planning attorney before applying for Medicaid. Though some transfers are allowed, others will incur a stiff penalty, causing your Medicaid benefits to be delayed or causing you to lose assets. Ideally, you will incorporate Medicaid planning into your estate plan early on to ensure that your assets are protected and your application for benefits will be approved when you need them.
If you have additional questions or concerns about Medicaid planning, or your Illinois estate plan in general, contact the experienced Illinois estate planning attorneys at Nash Bean Ford & Brown, LLP by calling 309-944-2188 to schedule your appointment today.
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