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Must I give up my house to qualify for Medicaid?

There is no doubt that long-term medical care has become expensive. Even well-off people are not always able to pay for, say, 15 years’ worth of nursing homes or in-home caregivers. Of course, government programs such as Medicaid can step in to help pay for most, if not all, expenses. However, those who apply for Medicaid must meet certain eligibility requirements, some of which are financial. One common concern is whether you will have to give up your home in order to qualify.

The good news is that in many cases, you do not have to give up your house.

Who owns and lives in the house

If you are married and decide a nursing home is where you should be, you can still keep the house as long as your spouse lives there. In fact, even if you are not married, you can still keep the house if you are living in it. In New York state, your home must be worth less than $814,000 for these guidelines to apply.

Five-year rule

Some people decide they will just sign the house over to a grandchild or cousin a few months before they apply for Medicaid. However, you cannot have made such moves in the five years preceding your application. That said, there are a few exemptions. For example, if your child living there is younger than 21 or totally disabled or blind, you can sign the house over without penalty. The same goes if you have a child who has been living with you for two years and who cared for you. In some circumstances, siblings count too. If you have a brother or sister who has been living in the house for one year before you go to a nursing home and that sibling has equity in the home, he or she can remain. You can also transfer the home to your spouse without penalty.

However, it is worth noting that Medicaid can try to recover the home in some circumstances after you die.