Importance of Assets in Medicaid Qualification

April 29, 2024

With the rising costs of long-term care, many older adults are concerned about how they will afford the care they need. Medicaid is a program that assists with long-term care costs for those who qualify. However, a common misconception is that Medicaid is only for low-income individuals. With proper planning, even those with significant assets can protect their wealth and qualify for Medicaid benefits. This comprehensive guide will explore the strategies and options available to protect your assets while still eligible for Medicaid. Let’s get started…

Understanding the Importance of Assets in Medicaid Qualification

Before we dive into the strategies, it’s crucial to understand why assets play a significant role in Medicaid qualification. Medicaid is a means-tested program, meaning eligibility is based on financial need. If you have too many assets, you may not qualify for benefits. For example, in Idaho, the resource limit for a married couple applying for Medicaid benefits in 2024 is $2,000 per applicant. You will not be approved for benefits if your assets exceed this limit. However, it’s essential to recognize that just because you currently have too many assets, it doesn’t mean you can’t become eligible in the future. By effectively managing your assets, you can protect them while still being eligible for Medicaid.

What Assets Are Protected from Medicaid?

Regarding Medicaid eligibility, not all assets are counted towards the asset limit. Certain assets are considered exempt and are not included in the determination of eligibility. These exempt assets include personal belongings, Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), equity in a primary home, and a vehicle. On the other hand, assets such as cash, investments, checking accounts, and non-primary residences are counted towards the asset limit. Many individuals seek ways to protect their assets from Medicaid, and one effective option is a Medicaid Trust.

The Role of Medicaid Trusts in Asset Protection

A Medicaid Trust is an irrevocable trust that allows you to protect your assets from Medicaid while still being eligible for benefits. By placing your assets in a Medicaid Trust, they are no longer considered your property, and therefore, they are not counted towards the asset limit when applying for benefits. Using the right type of trust for this planning strategy is crucial, as it needs to meet certain requirements to gain exempt status. One essential consideration is establishing the trust before the Medicaid look-back period, which is five years. If the trust is established within this period, the assets within the trust will be

counted as part of your application. Planning ahead and consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney can ensure that your trust is established correctly and within the appropriate timeframe.

Will a Trust Protect My Assets from Medicaid?

In short, yes, a trust can protect your assets from Medicaid if done properly. However, using the right type of trust is crucial to ensure that your assets are fully protected as intended. An irrevocable Medicaid Asset Protection Trust is the recommended option. This type of trust cannot be canceled, and once assets are placed in the trust, they are no longer owned by the individual who created the trust. It’s important to note that this action is permanent, so careful consideration and planning are necessary before finalizing the trust. Let’s walk through an example to understand how a Medicaid Trust works:

The trust maker (you) creates the trust to protect assets from Medicaid while attempting to qualify for benefits.

A trustee, who cannot be the same person as the trust maker, is appointed to manage the trust. Often, grown children are chosen as trustees, but anyone you trust can fulfill this role.

Beneficiaries are named in the trust, typically children, who will receive the assets from the trust upon the trust maker’s passing.

By following these steps and correctly establishing the trust, you can protect your assets from Medicaid while ensuring their distribution to your chosen beneficiaries.

Protecting Your Home from Medicaid

For many individuals, their primary residence is their most valuable asset. The good news is that your primary home is exempt from the asset limitations outlined in Medicaid qualification rules. However, it’s essential to understand the nuances of protecting your home from Medicaid recovery after your passing. Many individuals wish to pass their home onto their children or keep it within the family rather than losing it to Medicaid recovery. One effective strategy is placing your home in a Medicaid Asset Protection Trust. By doing so, you can protect your home from Medicaid while retaining the right to live in it during your lifetime. This option provides peace of mind, knowing that your home will be preserved for your loved ones while still being eligible for Medicaid benefits.

Protecting Your Spouse’s Assets

Your spouse’s financial situation is also considered when applying for Medicaid benefits. Medicaid has rules to protect the spouse of an individual receiving benefits. These rules ensure that the healthy spouse’s income and assets are not significantly impacted. In most cases, a spouse can retain a portion

of the couple’s assets, although there are limits to this provision. The healthy spouse is also entitled to keep their income, even if it exceeds Medicaid income limitations. Additionally, there may be options to allow the healthy spouse to keep some of the income of the spouse receiving care. These rules and protections provide financial stability and peace of mind for the healthy spouse during the Medicaid qualification process.

Understanding Medicaid’s Financial Scrutiny

When applying for Medicaid, your financial situation will be thoroughly examined. This scrutiny includes checking your bank accounts and verifying the information provided on your application. Being completely honest and upfront throughout the entire Medicaid application process is crucial. Attempting to hide assets or income through illegal means is unethical and illegal. Medicaid requires documentation to support the various aspects of your financial life, so be prepared to provide the necessary documents. Planning ahead and consulting with an experienced attorney can help you navigate the Medicaid application process smoothly and honestly.

The Role of 401(k) Accounts in Medicaid Planning

Most 401(k) accounts are considered assets and will be considered when applying for Medicaid. However, the treatment of these accounts can vary depending on the state and individual circumstances. It may be possible to convert the account to an annuity, allocate it to a spouse, or take other actions to protect the assets and qualify for Medicaid. Working with an attorney experienced in Medicaid planning is crucial to determining the best strategy for your specific situation. Making the wrong move with regard to your 401(k) accounts can have expensive consequences, so expert guidance is essential.

The Importance of Planning in Advance

One of the most critical factors in successfully protecting your assets and qualifying for Medicaid is planning in advance. The earlier you start planning, the more options you will have, and the greater flexibility you will enjoy. Medicaid has a look-back period of five years, during which transfers of certain assets may be disallowed. Any transfers made within this period will still be deemed owned by you and may impact your eligibility. By starting the planning process early and exploring various long-term care insurance options, you can ensure ample time to make informed decisions and protect your assets effectively.


Protecting your assets and qualifying for Medicaid may seem daunting, but with careful planning and the right strategies, it is possible to achieve both goals. By understanding the asset limitations of Medicaid, the exemptions available, and the role of trusts in asset protection, you can confidently navigate the qualification process. Remember to consult with an experienced attorney specializing in Medicaid planning to ensure you make the best decisions for your unique circumstances. With proper planning in advance, you can protect your assets, secure access to long-term care, and provide for your loved ones in the future.

Your Estate Planning journey begins with us by scheduling a Family Wealth Planning Session. During this two-hour meeting, you will meet with an attorney to explain how an Estate Plan can benefit you and the ones you leave behind. Schedule your Family Wealth Planning Session today by calling us at 208-733-7200 or by clicking the link here.

This article is provided as a service of Twin Falls Estate Planning, Personal Family Lawyers®. We do not just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session™, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love.

All Blogs