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Has anyone ever told you that Grandma lost her house to the nursing home? As an elder law attorney, I hear that all the time. But how does the nursing home get to take Grandma’s house? Will they be able to take your house? Is there anything you can do to prevent it?

I’ll answer my last question first, you can protect your house from the nursing home. You can protect all of your stuff. But, you have to plan ahead. I’ll come back to this in a minute.

So how does the nursing home get to take Grandma’s house? Well, they don’t really. Here is what happens when “the nursing home” takes Grandma’s house.

If you have read our post on the cost of long-term care, you know that the nursing home generally costs between $7,500 and $9,000 a month. At that rate, most people will burn through whatever savings they have pretty quickly. When someone runs out of money, the State of Alabama will pay for the nursing home through a program called Medicaid. This is not the same thing as Medicare. (You can learn about the difference between Medicaid and Medicare here.)

But, Medicaid doesn’t want to pay until Grandma has spent all of her money first.

Medicaid will not pay for the nursing home until a single person has spent everything but $2,000 in assets. Since Medicaid counts the house as an asset, Grandma has to sell the house. So, when someone says the “nursing home took Grandma’s house,” what they mean is that they had to spend down all of Grandma’s assets so that Medicaid would pay for the nursing home.

YOU DON’T HAVE TO SPEND DOWN ALL OF YOUR MONEY IF YOU PLAN AHEAD!!!

If you plan ahead, you can protect some or all of your assets from the cost of the nursing home. Don’t wait until you are about to check Mom into the nursing home before preparing for the cost of long-term care. In this case, time really is money and the sooner you plan, the more you can save. To learn more about how to protect money from long- term care costs, click here.