Ask the Attorney

QUESTION: My husband has Alzheimer’s and is in the nursing home. The bill is almost $10,000 a month! Will the nursing home take all of our savings? Is there anything we can do?

ANSWER: Yes, there are legal ways to protect your assets. Generally speaking, you are allowed to keep your home (there is no limit on value as long as the spouse lives there), one vehicle, and your household goods. You are also allowed to keep 50% of the money you and your husband had on the first day that he went into long-term care up to a maximum of $126,420. The money that you have left over has to be spent down (the “spend-down”) before your husband can qualify for Medicaid. Once your husband qualifies for Medicaid, then the State of Michigan will pay for his nursing home care.

Without proper planning, the money that you have to “spend-down” is usually spent on the monthly nursing home cost. However, there are legal options available to save some or all of the “spend-down.” For instance, if your “spend-down” is $80,000, there are ways to save up to the entire $80,000 and qualify your husband for Medicaid.

You will also be able to keep all of your own income and you may be able to keep some of your husband’s income. This will help you pay for your property taxes, insurance, utilities, repairs, food, etc., since you now have to live alone and have lost some or all of your husband’s income. I would advise you to see an Elder Law attorney who specializes in Asset Protection for nursing homes.

Michael B. Walling is an Elder Law & Estate Planning attorney with an advanced Master of Laws degree. He manages the Elder Law Center and law firm of Michael B. Walling, PLC. He has offices in Battle Creek and Portage, Michigan. Mr. Walling is also a Part-Time Professor at Western Michigan University.

This column is intended for general information purposes only and should not be considered as legal advice to any particular person.