rangirrick Asked March 2010

If my mom sells her home and uses the revenue to buy a vehicle, are there any restrictions on what type of vehicle she can purchase?

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My Mom is in a nursing home and will probably not be coming out. She has not yet applied for Medicaid as she has been paying for her care from her assets. We are selling her home which will give her about $60K in cash assets. Can she buy a vehicle for that amount, thereby spending down the balance of her assets so we can get her qualified for medicaid?

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EXPERT Ralph Robbins Apr 2010
Sorry to disagree with other posters, but the answer to your question , without judgment, will depend on what state she lives in.

In Florida and in many other states a Medicaid applicant may own a car of any value as an exempt asset. In other states the value of an exempt automobile may be limited...sometimes to a as little as $7,000.

The answer is yes, you can technically take the proceeds of her home and purchase a car and then apply for Medicaid.

Understand that in most states, too, the home remains an exempt asset as long as an "intent to return" is expressed. In some states it is simply assumed that this is the case at application and going forward and the home, therefore, remains an exempt as a countable asset while the recipient is receiving benefits.

If the home is rented while owned by the applicant, it still may be considered an exempt asset if net income after expenses is used for her cost of care.

The home, whether maintained as a personal residence or an income producing property, may be subject to Medicaid estate recovery if it becomes subject to probate at your mother's demise.

So, if the home is kept, you may want to make sure it is not subject to probate by restructuring the deed (search for "enhanced life estate or "lady bird deed") or by placing the property in a Revocable Living Trust (be careful with the later, however because some states may not give a homestead property tax exemption to property so held).

I did like the comment above with respect to purchasing a depreciating asset. Whereas property values are still depressed, it would make much more sense to try to hang on to the property for the foreseeable future if proper rents can be obtained.
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195Austin Mar 2010
I would talk to an elder lawyer about that from what I understand any money received has to go for her care esp if she is in a nursing home -would the car be for her use-medicaid looks back for 5 yrs when you apply and they have to be provided with information how her money was used and they can get information very easily some places have elder lawyers who donate their time but you could pay his fee from the proceeds of the house.
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lcs Mar 2010
I presume your mother is in the nursing home only because she wants her meals to be prepared for her. If she is in for any additional reason, it is unlikely she should even HAVE a car to drive. People in lodges sometimes qualify to still be drivers but people in nursing homes generally would not qualify as at that stage in their lives, they would be unsafe drivers. Does your mother need the money from the sale of her house in order to continue to stay at the nursing home? If so, then you will have to sell the house and your mother can pay for her own care until her money is spent. However, if she doesn't need the money, or just needs a bit more each month to pay her own way, have you considered renting out the house? Then she would have some money coming in every month and in the end, if she wills the house to you, you would inherit the house. Just a thought.
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pamela6148 Mar 2010
If your mother is in a Nursing Home why does she need a car? How old is she? it doesn't say on your profile.

I agree with lcs about renting out the house, unless it would be a lot of trouble for you to maintain, keep it and use that money to continue paying for your mom's stay. But you'd better have her place it in a Living Trust or something so it doesn't get away from you.
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ezcare Mar 2010
Here is the basic question you need answered:
Q: "Can she buy a vehicle for that amount, thereby spending down the balance of her assets so we can get her qualified for medicaid?"
A: Absolutely NOT! She would still own the vehicle so it would still be an asset that prevents her from being qualified for medicaid. Also why should taxpayer money (medicaid) be used to pay for something your mother already has the means to pay for herself.

If you were thinking that she could purchase the vehicle in your name...forget that too. The state has the legal right for 5-7 years to "claw back" the money that got transferred to you if she qualifies for medicaid because that money was given away. And the state can bill you for the total amount paid for the vehicle even if it depreciated in value. So if you paid $60,000 and it is now only worth $40,000 you will still need to pay the state $60,000. Best consult an Elder Law Attorney and/or Financial Advisor before you make any move in this direction. You may be able to preserve the $60,000 without the hassle your plan entails.
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pamela6148 Mar 2010
I still wanna know how old your mom is, and why she needs a car?
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NancyH Mar 2010
No car is worth $60K that won't depreciate as soon as you drive it off the lot anyway. And I agree with Pamela, most people in a nursing home can hardly get to the bathroom by themselves, let alone drive a car. :)
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lcs Apr 2010
I am sure your explanation, Ralph, will be very helpful to the person who posed the question. I was happy to see that you thought the same as I - that renting out the house, if possible, would make more sense than buying a vehicle. Yippee - an expert and I thought alike! :-)
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pamela6148 Apr 2010
I still wanna know how old your mom is, and why she needs a car?
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lcs Apr 2010
Don't hold your breath, Pamela, until you find out!! :-)
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