On average, one-third to one-half of people who go into an assisted living facility or a nursing home will live there three-to-five years. Now, depending on the location and type of center, long-term care costs range from $5,000 to $10,000 per month. It won’t take long for a person’s savings to be gone with nothing left behind for their children. What’s the solution?

Consulting an experienced estate planning attorney should be your first step. It’s possible that with the right strategy, Medicaid planning could provide essential care services without exhausting all of a loved one’s assets. 

How Medicaid Planning Might Work

Medicaid is a need-based federal and state program that covers the cost of long-term care for qualified individuals. Generally speaking, a person can’t have more than $2,000 in assets to qualify, excluding their home and car. But for those individuals who do qualify for Medicaid, their nursing home stay is taken care of for as long as they live.

Now here’s an important consideration: in order to leave any assets to your heirs, comprehensive estate planning has to be done in advance—at least five years before you or someone you love is ready to go to a care facility. Why? Because as the Medicaid program determines eligibility, it “looks back” for any assets transferred to family members for less than fair market value in the last five years. Transfers within that time frame could be viewed as current assets and result in Medicare disqualification. 

How an Estate Attorney Can Help

Of course, you don’t have a crystal ball to know for sure that a transition to assisted living or a nursing home will happen. But advance preparation is key. Lawyers with experience in elder law can project various costs for healthcare and long-term facility care and explain the confusing Medicaid system and potential eligibility. 

When crafting your estate plan, they might have additional solutions to secure your assets for family members, such as long-term care insurance, various types of trusts, and other options. You have a choice. Who gets your assets: your family or the nursing home? With forethought and the right advice, you won’t need a crystal ball for that decision.