How to Transfer Assets and Qualify for Medicaid

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As we age, it's important to think about the possibility of needing long-term care. Unfortunately, the cost of such care can be astronomical, and many people simply cannot afford it. That's where Medicaid comes in. Medicaid is a government program that helps people with limited income and resources pay for their medical care, including long-term care.

However, in order to qualify for Medicaid, you must meet certain financial eligibility requirements. One of these requirements is that you cannot have too many assets. So, what do you do if you have assets that would disqualify you from Medicaid? Here are some tips on how to transfer assets and qualify for Medicaid.

Understand the Look-Back Period

Before we get into the specifics of asset transfer, it's important to understand the look-back period. The look-back period is the amount of time that Medicaid looks back at your financial transactions to determine if you have transferred assets for less than fair market value. If you have, you may be subject to a penalty period during which you will not be eligible for Medicaid.

The look-back period is currently five years. This means that any asset transfers you make within the five years prior to applying for Medicaid will be scrutinized. If you transfer assets for less than fair market value during this period, you may be subject to a penalty period during which you will not be eligible for Medicaid.

Determine Which Assets Can be Transferred

Not all assets can be transferred without penalty. Medicaid has strict rules about which assets can be transferred and when. Here are some general guidelines:

  • You can transfer your primary residence to certain individuals without penalty. These individuals include your spouse, a child who is under 21 years old, a child who is blind or disabled, and a sibling who has lived in the home for at least one year prior to your entry into a long-term care facility.
  • You can transfer other assets, such as cash, stocks, and bonds, but you may be subject to a penalty period if the transfer is made within the look-back period. The penalty period is calculated based on the value of the assets transferred.

It's important to note that not all states have the same Medicaid rules. Some states have different requirements for asset transfers, so it's important to check with your state's Medicaid program to determine which assets can be transferred without penalty.

Consider a Medicaid Trust

One way to transfer assets without penalty is to set up a Medicaid trust. A Medicaid trust is a legal arrangement in which you transfer your assets to a trust, which is managed by a trustee. The trust is designed to meet Medicaid's asset eligibility requirements while allowing you to retain some control over your assets.

There are two types of Medicaid trusts: revocable and irrevocable. A revocable trust allows you to change or cancel the trust at any time, while an irrevocable trust cannot be changed or canceled once it is established.

If you set up a Medicaid trust, you must transfer your assets to the trust at least five years before applying for Medicaid. This ensures that the assets are not subject to the look-back period.

Work with an Attorney

Transferring assets to qualify for Medicaid can be a complex and confusing process. It's important to work with an attorney who specializes in elder law and Medicaid planning. An attorney can help you navigate the rules and regulations surrounding asset transfer and ensure that your assets are protected.

An attorney can also help you determine the best course of action for your individual situation. For example, if you have a spouse who is not yet in need of long-term care, an attorney can help you protect your assets while ensuring that your spouse is taken care of financially.

Other Considerations

There are a few other things to keep in mind when transferring assets to qualify for Medicaid:

  • Timing is important. It's best to start planning for Medicaid eligibility well in advance of needing long-term care. This gives you time to transfer assets and ensure that you meet the eligibility requirements.
  • You may need to spend down your assets. If you have assets that cannot be transferred without penalty, you may need to spend them down before you can qualify for Medicaid. This can be a complicated process, so it's important to work with an attorney.
  • Medicaid planning can be complicated. There are many rules and regulations surrounding Medicaid eligibility, and they can vary from state to state. It's important to work with an attorney who is familiar with the Medicaid rules in your state.


Qualifying for Medicaid can be a lifesaver for those who need long-term care but cannot afford it. However, the financial eligibility requirements can be strict, and transferring assets to meet those requirements can be complicated. If you are considering transferring assets to qualify for Medicaid, it's important to understand the rules and regulations, work with an attorney, and plan ahead to ensure that you are eligible when the time comes. With careful planning and the help of an experienced attorney, you can protect your assets and ensure that you receive the care you need.