Elder Law with Frank and Mary: You can always qualify for MassHealth


If you need nursing home care, or need a lot of care at home to avoid it, you can always qualify for MassHealth. It’s not hard:

If you’re married

You simply transfer all assets to your spouse. There is no lookback period. Your spouse may keep the home and any rental property, and up to $148,600 in other assets, and use the rest to buy an annuity, as long as it calls for equal monthly payments over a term that is shorter than their actuarial life expectancy.

If you’re single

You may keep your house, as long as you say you intend to return to it.

You may use your other assets to:

  • Buy an annuity, as long as it has a term shorter than your actuarial life expectancy, or
  • Transfer the money to a D4C pooled trust, to be used to supplement your care while you are alive.

If you want to stay at home instead of going to a nursing home, you may do that, too. The same rules apply.

All of this may be hard to believe. I talk to people almost every week who have relatives who need nursing home care, but have heard that it is too late because their spouse or relative did not plan ahead. You may think that you have too much in assets to qualify for MassHealth, but by restructuring things, you can qualify.

While restructuring things at the last minute, especially if you are single, may mean that MassHealth will have a lien on some assets following your death, the savings resulting from the reduced nursing home rates once you are on MassHealth almost always justify the cost of the restructuring and applying. So my advice to anyone in that situation is simple: Talk with an elder law attorney. There may be some tax or other considerations that outweigh benefits of qualifying, but you can always qualify. If you want to learn more about these issues, you can watch this month’s episode of “Elder Law 101.” You can find it on MVTV (Comcast 13), or visit Frank and Mary’s YouTube channel, youtube.com/elderlawfrankandmary. If you have any questions, please contact me at 508-860-1470 or abergeron@mirickoconnell.com.

Arthur P. Bergeron is an elder law attorney in the trusts and estates group at Mirick O’Connell.