Question: My friend’s husband had to go into a nursing home. She said it was $11,000 a month. It took all of their life’s savings. I am worried that will happen to my husband and I. What can we do to protect our money?

Answer: I am so sorry to hear about your friend losing all of their money. I see that all the time. You work hard your whole life. You go without things so you can save your money. Then you get sick and have to go into a nursing home and lose your life’s savings. It’s sad. There are some things you can do to protect your assets: First, you can look into long-term care insurance. The downside is that it is expensive unless you buy it around age 55. The longer you wait, the more expensive it becomes. However, the newer policies have advantages over the older ones. The State of Michigan now has a Long-Term Care Partnership program. This program will provide a level of asset protection if you have a Partnership policy of long-term care insurance. Basically, it provides dollar for dollar asset protection; For every dollar your long-term care insurance pays out, you can keep a dollar of assets. For instance, if your long-term care insurance pays out $100,000 to the nursing home, you can keep $100,000 of assets and still qualify for Medicaid. Keep in mind that your long-term care insurance must be qualified under Michigan’s Long-Term Care Partnership program. If you are looking into buying a new policy, then talk to your insurance agent about the Partnership program. If you already have a policy, then talk to your insurance agent about making the necessary changes to get your policy qualified under the Partnership program. Long-term care insurance does a lot more than just pay for the nursing home. One of the biggest benefits I see is that it can pay for home care and assisted living. This can help you stay in your home much longer. And if you do need to go into a facility, an assisted living facility is a much better option than a nursing home.

Second, talk to an elder law attorney who specializes in asset protection for nursing home care. There are legal options to protect your assets. For a married couple, up to 100% of their assets may be protected. And for a single person, up to 50% of his or her assets may be protected. Just a side note: I see a lot of people trying to “sell” irrevocable trusts. Those can be very helpful in the right situation which is usually if you have a large estate. But the downside of an irrevocable trust is that once your money goes in, you can’t get it out. As such, it is not available to pay for home care or assisted living. Basically, you are planning to go into a nursing home. Is that what you want? My advice is to get a second opinion before you lock up all your assets in an irrevocable trust.

Michael B. Walling is an Elder Law attorney with an advance Master of Laws degree. He manages The Elder Law Center and the law firm of Michael B. Walling, PLC. Mr. Walling is also a part-time Professor at Western Michigan University. Please email any questions you would like addressed to: This column is intended for general information purposes only and should not be considered as legal advice to any particular person.