Estate Planning Blog

Top 3 Things to Know to Protect You From A Medi-Cal Estate Claim

Medi-Cal offers low-cost or free health insurance and nursing home coverage to eligible California residents with limited income. Before January 1, 2017, the federal law made it optional for states to recover for medical services like doctor visits and hospital stays. California is among 10 states that seeks repayment beyond the federal minimum and here your estate will be expected to pay back the value of all coverage you receive after you turn 55. Assets transferred to a surviving spouse could be sought for recovery from that spouse’s estate after his or her death. With new legislation, a Medi-Cal homeowner need only avoid probate to protect his or her estate from recovery, such as by having the home owned by a living trust.

Are You Asking Yourself “Can Medi-Cal Take My Home After I Die?”

  • Learning the New Law

Through the Estate Recovery Program, the Medi-Cal program sought repayment from the estates of deceased family members.  The program targeted only benefits received by the deceased on or after their 55th birthday as well as  their assets at the time of death. For those who passed away on or after January 1, 2017, Medi-Cal Estate Recovery may not apply if your estate is planned correctly. California passed SB 833 that included changes to the Medi-Cal estate recovery practices and more changes to the state health care laws. California no longer seeks recovery from the estate of a surviving spouse of a deceased Medi-Cal recipient.  The estate and assets which pass through a trust, or which avoid probate, are protected under SB 833. By placing assets into a living trust, and through proper estate planning, estate recovery can be avoided. Thinking you might need help? The Law Offices of Joel A Harris, located in Antioch, California are experts in Estate Planning and Probate Law.

  • Changing the Way You Gift Money

Under the new recovery rules, if a gift deed transfers the home outright to an individual and you retain a life estate, this would be considered irrevocable and immune from recovery. The state cannot recover from IRAs, work-related pension funds or life insurance policies. You should usually not name your living trust as the beneficiary on retirement accounts. Always directly name the person(s) you would like to be  the beneficiary. Repayment will be limited to only estate assets subject to probate that were owned by the deceased recipient at the time of death and repayments will be limited to services received by deceased.

Gifting assets can cost you if you don’t understand the rules. Changes to the Medi-Cal eligibility rules now uses a 30 month “look-back” rule when evaluating applicants. Transfers made for less than fair market value will cause a penalty period of disqualification determined by dividing the uncompensated transfer by the average monthly cost of LTC private pay in your area. By gifting, an individual can transfer property at the time of death with the gift tax effects considered.

  • Helping Your Children

Even though the state can no longer recover for basic health services like doctor visits and prescription drugs, it can recover for services related to nursing home care. Recovery is limited to services required to be recovered under federal laws. Probate is a legal process through which the corresponding county court sees that the deceased’s assets are distributed according to the decedent’s will. The probate process can be thought of as simply the last option for transferring titles to the beneficiary. Avoiding probate can save unnecessary expenses, time, and stress.

Are You Worried Your Assets May Not Be Protected From A Medi-Cal Estate Claim?

Planning for your future includes understanding that all that you have worked and saved for could be taken away after your passing if not properly protected.  Preparing for that time by protecting your assets is the best gift you can give your spouse and children. At The Law Offices of Joel A Harris, we offer the best guidance for preparing your estate plan catered to your individual needs. Throughout the process, we explain everything and patiently answer every question you may have. Since 1993, The Law Offices of Joel A Harris, located in Antioch, California, has worked tirelessly to assure individuals create the most beneficial estate plan for their spouse and heirs. Have questions, feel free to reach out to us at (925)757-4605.


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