How much of my mother's assets count towards her Medicaid eligibility?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My father recently passed away and, according to his will, my sisters and I will inherit his home. My mother is still living; however her name is not on the deed to their home. According to my father's will my mother can live in the home for the remainder of her life (a life estate). My mother suffers from dementia, and we must soon make the decision to put her in a nursing facility. My mother has very few assests, so my question is how much will a life estate count as an assest when applying for Medicaid for her admission to a nursing facility?

Expert Answer

A life estate should not count at all as an asset in determining your mother's eligibility for Medicaid coverage of her nursing home care.  A life estate is a contract right that is exclusive to the person who holds it -- it has no market value, since it can't be sold or transferred to anyone else. Once your mother is no longer able to live at home, the life estate "asset" -- the right to live in the house -- will have no value. So, Medicaid should not consider it an asset when determining her eligibility.  Even if Medicaid were to consider the life estate an "interest" in the home, a home is exempt (unless worth more than a certain high limit set by your state's Medicaid program) when considering Medicaid eligibility.  To find out the specific Medicaid rules for the state where your mother lives, use any Internet search engine and enter the words Medicaid and the name of the state, which will take you to the official web site of the state's Medicaid program.  Or you can go to the web site and click on the name of the state. You can also call the Eldercare Locator toll-free at 800-677-1116.