Nursing Homes, Medicaid and Homesteads in Florida

A very common question from potential clients has to do with nursing homes and homes.  Specifically, what happens if someone has to go into a nursing home; does the state ‘take’ the house?
I understand that in many other states, when an elderly resident has to move to a nursing home and applies for financial assistance from the state to pay for the nursing home, under the Medicaid program, the state will either expect the house to be sold, or place a lien against the house for the amount spent by the state on the nursing home.  And sometimes people will jump through a lot of hoops to avoid this; and frequently they will wind up not eligible for assistance from the state precisely because they tried to shelter the home.
I, personally, do not do Medicaid planning in Florida; this is a very technical area and there are some attorneys who do this sort of thing. And if I get a phone call regarding Medicaid planning, I will always refer it out to a local attorney that I know that does Medicaid planning.
Nonetheless, I will tell you that normally, Florida neither requires the sale of the personal residence nor will Florida enforce a lien for Medicaid against the homestead provided the homestead goes to either a spouse, or a relative after the death of the person in the nursing home.   However, what can get people into trouble is where they try to avoid the Medicaid lien and start transferring the house to the children prior to going into the nursing home; Florida will look at all transfers of assets within a period of time prior to the application for Medicaid; and under most circumstances, if the house has been transferred to someone, this may render the person ineligible for Medicaid.
The lesson here is, don’t try ‘do it yourself’ legal planning; these rules are very specific and very technical; if you try to plan this on your own, frankly,  you may wind up putting yourself in fix that is going to be very difficult and expensive to get out of.  If you or a loved one may have to move to a nursing home, call an attorney who handles this sort of thing; don’t try doing this on your own, and don’t look for advice from non attorneys; a lot of people offer Medicaid planning; some of them are good, but a lot of  them are more interested in selling you a particular product that they sell rather than looking after your best interest.  As I said, I don’t do this sort of law; I don’t have any interest in selling you a particular product and in fact I will refer it out; but I will tell you that you need to talk to a lawyer about this.
If  you have a question about nursing homes and Medicaid in The Villages, feel free to contact my office and I will be happy to give the names and numbers of attorneys who handle this;  there are things that can be done to protect assets and if there is a spouse, to protect the spouse; but this is something that you want a lawyer to handle and I will be happy to send  you to one.  Please, though, do not try to handle this on  your own.  There is a real chance you may do something that will be very difficult to fix.

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