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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Caregiver of 38 Years Loses Home to Medicaid Nursing Home Costs

Will Medicaid take my home if I need to go to a nursing home?  How can I protect my house? These are two of the most common questions I hear as an elder law attorney.
On Monday, Rita Price of The Columbus Dispatch published a related story entitled "Thanks to Medicaid, Caregiver Faces Eviction - Forced Sale of Home".
Murrell Lewis cared for owner Alma O'Brien, 94, for 38 years
Price tells the tale of Murrell Lewis, a single man in 1973 with a doctorate in physics that needed a place to live, and Alma Ruth O'Brien, a widow that opened her home to Mr. Murrell.
38 years later, O'Brien is 94 years old and in a nursing home, and "Medicaid regulations require that the home be sold to help pay for her care." Murrell is left as a 74 year old with little income, no family, and looking for a place to live.  The home is not in his name, and he's fighting an eviction order.
Evidently, Pro Seniors, a non-profit organization which serves seniors receives calls from citizens facing similar asset seizures "weekly, if not daily. It's the source of many, many problems." Managing attorney Tom Bedall states that proper legal planning is paramount: "You can't start early enough," he said. "There's estate planning, and there's Medicaid planning. You really need to talk to an attorney who is familiar with Medicaid rules."
Sadly, O'Brien  thought she had done enough by making a will that left her home to Mr. Lewis and purchasing Long Term Care Insurance that pays for $5,000 per month of her nursing home care (when combined with her retirement income).
Unfortunately, a will does absolutely nothing to protect against losing assets to the costs of nursing home care or Medicaid, and her Long Term Care Insurance is not enough to fully pay her health care costs.
In the end, we are left with a scenario where Murrell cared for O'Brien for nearly 38 years, with both parties expecting that Murrell would inherit the house and belongings in return. The law, however, provides otherwise, and the expectation is that Murrell will be evicted, the home sold and proceeds used to pay for O'Brien's care until the money is exhausted...with Murrell losing a friend and left to look for a place to live at 74 years of age.
What could have been done to protect the home from nursing home Medicaid costs?  How could they have been sure the house went to Murrell? What kind of Long Term Care Insurance should O'Brien have purchased? Stay tuned for follow-up posts where we'll deconstruct the planning mistakes these friends made.

To get started on the most important planning you'll ever do for your family, call Golowin Legal at (614) 453-5580 to get started.

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