Can a nursing home take a widow's home as payment for the care of her now deceased husband?

1 answer | Last updated: Oct 09, 2016
Jody white asked...

Can a nursing home take a widow's home as payment for the care of her now deceased husband?


Expert Answers

It sounds like you're asking about repayment to Medicaid of the amount Medicaid spent on nursing home care for the deceased husband. If so, there is good news for the widow -- Medicaid cannot take her home to pay for her deceased husband's care as long as she's alive. (By the way, the nursing home itself has no claim because it has already been paid, by Medicaid.)

If the Medicaid program pays someone's long-term nursing home costs, Medicaid has the right to be reimbursed from that person's estate, when he or she dies, for the total amount Medicaid has spent on the person's care. Usually, that money would comes out of the person's home, as a home is the only asset he or she is still likely to have. (If there were other assets, the person wouldn't qualify for Medicaid in the first place.)

But the Medicaid estate recovery rules are different if there is a living spouse. As long as the widow is living, Medicaid cannot touch her house, or even place a lien on it. However, once the widow dies, up to half of the value of the house (the deceased husband's community property share) can be claimed by Medicaid to repay Medicaid for the amounts it spent on the husband's care. So, heirs of the widow must be aware that Medicaid has a right to make a claim against the house, as part of the husband's estate (once the widow also dies), even years after the husband's death. The idea is that the government Medicaid should not have to foot the entire bill for the husband's care and then let the heirs walk away with the full value of the house.