I’m often asked whether transferring a parent’s residence to an adult child or children will “save the house from the nursing home.” Parents have heard that their friends or other relatives have made such a transfer in order to protect the residence, or to avoid having to sell it to pay for expensive nursing home care. While such a transfer may be appropriate in some cases, many families do not realize that if the parent applies for Medical Assistance benefits within five years of making such a transfer, they will actually be ineligible for benefits for a period of time due to making a disqualifying divestment.

A divestment is the disposing of assets for less than fair market value. If an applicant for Medical Assistance has divested assets, a disqualification period results based on the value of the assets transferred. The penalty period is calculated by dividing the total divested amount by the statewide average nursing home cost of care (currently $252.95 per day) in effect at the time of the Medical Assistance application. This number is the number of days of disqualification.

There is an exception under the divestment rules, however, for transfers of a home to a caregiver child. This exception allows adult children to care for their parent at home as opposed to moving them into a nursing home or assisted living facility, while at the same time compensating the child for their caregiving in the form of a transfer of the parent’s home. The home would otherwise have to be sold and the proceeds used to pay for long-term care.

In order to qualify for the caregiver child exception, the caregiver child must live in the home with his or her parent for at least two years immediately preceding the parent’s admission to a nursing home or assisted living facility. The level of care that the child provides must be the type of care that would ordinarily have required living in assisted living or a nursing home, but for the care provided by the child. Such care may include monitoring medications, providing meals, providing assistance with activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, and using the bathroom, and ensuring the health and safety of the parent.

Documentation of the level of care must be provided in the form of a notarized statement indicating that the parent was able to remain in his or her home because of the care provided by the child. The statement must be either from the parent’s physician or from an individual (other than the caregiver child) who has personal knowledge of his or her living circumstances.

It is important to consult with an elder law attorney before making a transfer of the residence to discuss the tax and other ramifications, as well as to ensure that the requirements to meet the caregiver child exception are properly followed.

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