How to protect assets from nursing home expenses

Updated February 21, 2017

Nursing home care can be an essential need for many elderly people, but the expenses incurred from nursing home care can be costly. Many times, if a person who enters a nursing home has assets, either Medicaid or the nursing home will attempt to take the assets to pay for expenses. There are, however, a few steps you can take to help protect your assets from nursing home expenses.

Take inventory of all personal assets of the person who will be affected. This includes bank accounts, pensions, plans, bonds, real property and any other tangible asset. Find, or figure, the worth of the assets if liquidated for cash. Divide these assets into two categories: assets that can become cash easily, such as bank accounts or stock; and those that will take time to sell, such as real property or annuities.

Have the person moving into the nursing home declare that he will go back home as soon as he is better. This will protect the home from being taken by the government or nursing home for payment. Even if the chances of recovery are negligible, taking this step allows for more time and keeps real property protected from nursing home expenses.

Liquidate as much as possible of the first category and use the money to pay down debt and mortgages. Putting money into the home increases equity and increases the value of an excluded asset if you use Step 2 above.

Invest in useful personal property and furnishings. Medicaid and nursing homes cannot take inventory of personal possessions.

Trade in the person's car for a better-equipped vehicle or purchase a new one. While the owner of the car must show that he needs the car to get around, he does not have to be the driver of the car.

Create an irrevocable trust. This can be used to place assets and income off limits for nursing home expenses. Keep the monthly income from the trust low enough to trigger Medicaid assistance, and this will cover the expenses.

Transfer real property to another family member before placing the person in a nursing facility. Check the guidelines to see how far in advance this must be done so you do not trigger a red flag.

Donate assets to charity over a period of time to avoid red flags. This will help decrease both seizure for nursing home expenses and eliminate estate taxes later.


Be wise with investments, because purchases need to be recorded for proof you are not hiding assets. Hire a financial counsellor to help with this.

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