by Michael Ettinger, Esq.
Medicaid annuities have been a viable planning option for New York spouses since The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005.
Say you have a spouse who needs nursing home care (the “institutionalized spouse”) but you have more assets than the Medicaid law allows you, the spouse at home (the “community spouse”) to keep. Currently, the community spouse may keep about $125,000 in resources (not including the house, which is exempt if a spouse is living there). But what if the couple has $400,000 in assets? That’s $275,000 in excess resources.
Many well meaning advisers, including lawyers, will tell you that it is too late and you have to first spend down that $275,000 before Medicaid will pay. Not correct.
Elder law attorneys have a number of good planning options here. One, spousal refusal was the subject of an earlier blog post.
Another planning option, the Medicaid annuity, may in some cases turn out to be the best planning option.
The community spouse purchases a Medicaid annuity worth the excess $275,00 which must make repayments of the full amount of the annuity plus interest with the community spouse’s actuarial life expectancy. Now, the $275,000 has disappeared and the institutionalized spouse is immediately eligible for Medicaid, saving nursing home costs of $12,000 or more per month. Spouse at home receives an increased income which is also almost all sheltered from Medicaid.
What if the spouse at home dies first, or before all the payments are made? The children may be named the beneficiary and receive the balance of the payments.