Seniors who are relying on Medicaid to help pay for expensive nursing home care need to plan carefully for the possibility that their spouse will pass away before they do.
Unlike Medicare, not all seniors are eligible for Medicaid. Medicaid is designed for people with limited income and assets, and to be eligible, you must meet strict financial guidelines. Many people have to spend down their assets to almost nothing and/or exhaust their long-term care insurance before they become eligible.
Of course, this is a problem if a senior is married and his or her spouse does not need nursing home care. It would mean that the spouse would have to be reduced to living in poverty before the senior could be eligible for benefits.
To avoid this problem, most states allow the spouse of a Medicaid recipient to keep a fairly generous amount of assets to live on. Many also allow the spouse to continue to receive some income without having to contribute to the senior’s nursing home costs.
But what happens if the spouse dies before the nursing home resident?