Can I sell my mother's car? She is in a nursing home on Medicaid.

My mother recently was granted Medicaid Long Term Care in Connecticut due to Diabetes and vascular dementia due to diabetic shock that left her without oxygen for 45 minutes. She is on full SSI Disability which is what pays for the Nursing home less her monthly personal amount of $60.

The only asset she has is a 2006 Ford Escape. I moved her From NH so the car is no longer registered and insured. It is worth $5000 if I sell it. The Social worker told me from Medicaid that that her car is an excluded asset, but am I am able to sell the car and use that money for clothes, etc while she is in the nursing home or will Medicaid come at me for that $$?

She is only 62 and I know that money will really help in providing the supplies, clothes, etc she will need in the Nursing home.

People have said to ask an Elder attorney, but I will end up paying $1000 for advice when the car is only worth $5000.

Thanks,

~frustrated CT daughter

Answers 1 to 10 of 10
Expert Answer
101 helpful answers
Your frustration is understandable, and expresses a common conundrum: why should I pay for legal advice when the cost comes close to the value of the assets involved?

Other community members here have explained how difficult it can be to stay in compliance with Medicaid's many regulations. Medicaid is swapping data with all the other government agencies. Information about bank accounts and income is continuously being harvested from the IRS and all the other federal and state agencies. As soon as something matches, Medicaid computers can generate notices that make life more stressful for the person managing modest finances of a loved one who needs long term care. Reading Medicaid's return address on the envelope can be the beginning of a bad experience.

Your question about the car sale proceeds is important. Your mother earned the funds to buy that car, and the modest value should be allowed to help supplement her basic needs.

You are probably familiar with the non-countable assets that a Medicaid beneficiary can have (pre paid funeral, burial account, etc). You could spend the car proceeds on those items during the month you sell the car, and your mother shouldn't be over assets. But if you don't report the transaction properly, who knows what misunderstandings Medicaid might draw from its data stream months or years from now?

You explained how you want to keep the money so your mother can use it during her lifetime for the things you mentioned in your question. It's understandable that you wouldn't want to pay to set up a trust fund that would comply with Medicaid regulations.

But there are charities in many states that operate pooled trusts for disabled people, and for people in nursing homes. Money deposited into the person's pooled trust account doesn't count against them. Because these trusts are established for charitable purposes (to help people in difficult circumstances like yours), there might be a pooled trust that would accept an account as small as you're asking about.

There should be an elder law attorney near you who can provide the assistance you need to make good decisions. It's likely that as you get to know and trust the attorney, you'll find other benefits of getting good advice you can rely on.
CT - eventually Medicaid will find out and it will be an issue. I had to deal with a transfer penalty issue on my mom's car. Transfer penalty is super sticky to deal with and a real paperwork PIA. Really avoid that happening in your life.

Cars - like homes - have to be registered with the state. So when you go to sell it to whomever the registration will show mom's name in the sale. The asset sale will show up as a transfer in the state system and a transfer penalty eventually will happen from Medicaid. So the state may not know immediately about it but will eventually and then you get a dreaded transfer penalty letter.

The car when she owns it, is a totally exempt asset. But once sold, the proceeds from the sale becomes an asset for her. 2K seems to be the asset limit for states, so a 5K car sale will take her over the limit for assets.

My suggestion is to first get the Blue Book value on the car to the penny. Some used car lots do this for free as a part of doing business. This way you have a specific amount to work from. Now if for whatever reason it needs to be lower than that (like it has body damage), then you will need documentation to show why (photos of car and letter from repair shop). Say it is $ 4,578.

Now what to do with $ 4,568? That is not even or just maybe 1 month at a NH. Medicaid seems to want it to be used to private pay for the NH. But if you can present another easy option to the caseworker, they could allow for the funds to be diverted. Buying things for her over time, probably will not be allowed as the asset ceiling rules are fixed and she will be ineligible for every month the extra $ is there. You probably need to find something that is a single chunk of $$. If mom does not have a prepaid NO CASH VALUE funeral or burial policy, I would see if Medicaid will allow for the full 4,568 to be diverted to the FH to pay towards this. The check from whomever buys the car can be in a certified check and you then as DPOA sign it over to the FH. So it never goes into mom's bank account.

If mom could use a specific type of chair & Medicaid does not pay for the type she could use, then the $ could be diverted to pay for it. What you kinda want to do is to provide a easy simple solution in mom's favor to spend the $ on, that is just a couple of steps straightforward in paperwork so the diversion is approved.

For my mom, transfer showed up in the secondary Medicaid review about 5 months after she applied. I was able to show cancelled checks from mechanic and had a couple of photos to get the car's value knocked way down from BB value.So the penalty % was low because of the time involved and then with the decreased value documentation, we were able to get it to be basically a wash so that her non-exempt assets even including the car were under 2K ceiling limit.

I don't know if all states do this, but my mom has to do an annual recertification for Medicaid. It goes over all possible assets and if there is any change in them. So you have to report if they sold their house or car or inheirited any funds or other money (like a settlement or insurance proceeds). You sign under pretty serious penalty for lying too. I know alot of folks think that they won't be found out but really not worth the risk. Good luck.

Xena - don't count the $ yet - if there are past due property taxes due that needs to be paid ASAP as that could cause the contract to be cancelled. It will come up in the title search as will any other clouds on title and all have to be paid for a clear title to be issued. If the buyer is getting a mortgage, the mortgage holder will require title insurance. All costs to make this happen could be on seller (you).

Past due property taxes usually have significant interest & fees added to. Interest rates in the 20% are common plus fees. Taxes in the redemption zone (for tax sale) could have other issues. Past due property taxes can be a flag for underwriters; if so and closing can't be done, the buyer gets earnest back.

Personally a property with past due property taxes, I'd consider a distressed sale & I'd push for all settlement costs onto seller (including house inspection & a structural engineering report) and get a deep title search done & require a real estate atty written warranty deed for the sale to be done.

Judgements against you, could be filed against the property. Folks with unpaid taxes usually have other credit issues with possible judgements or liens. These could delay or totally queer any closing.

Realtors commissions 6% will come off the top from proceeds too.

Only after all deducted from proceeds, do you get settlement $.

Do you really think buying a fur coat (or taking a cruise) is the best use of the $? Stuff like this is pure "welfare queen" dramarama & why it is so hard to get medicaid expanded for those who truly need coverage. Unless of course your planning on starring in "Grey Gardens 2".........
Can you ask Medicaid? If you get a written opinion, or if this is addressed in FAQs on their web site, I would trust that, print it out. I agree paying for a legal opinion is a bite out of a small amount.

If it is no longer registered, make sure it is out of site. When dad was sick we forgot to renew moms tags and the car got towed from the front of the house one day.
my mom wants to gift me her car and it is a 2014 will she still be able to get medicaid in a couple of months after her money has been depeleted or will I have to pay the state of wisconsin the value of this car?
Read the previous posts. If the value of the car combined with her existing funds take her over whatever your state has for income & assets she will be ineligible.
Receiving Wisconsin Medicaid. Will sell my house. They said I can pay off my credit card debts and overdue property taxes within the first month of the home sale. They also said I could spend any remaining assets from the sale of the home solely on myself during that month. My question is, what items am I allowed to purchase for myself? Can I take a vacation, cruise? Can I buy a fur coat or an expensive watch or personal luxury items?
Thank you iglo572 for your wealth of information. A cruise or vacation is what this person needs the most, psychologically, as she is ill and homebound for years. The fur coat, I agree with you, is unnecessary. Thanks!
My grandfather help me to get a car by putting it in his name. It's a 2014.Because my credit score was to low i could not get the car. He is now admitted into the nursing home. I have made every payment out of my own pocket. I now owe a little over $21,000.00. Will the nursing home take my car.What do i do when i finish paying for it, if they dont take it now,will they take it later????
Denise - grandpa helped you out, that's understandable. Will this become a problem for him & you? To me the answer will be interdependent on how the title reads on the car first and how grandpa is paying for his care in the NH second. And there's a 3rd issue which perhaps nobody has thought of ..... how the car is insured.

On the first: So exactly how is the title and the lending on the car done? You wrote its in his name. If that's it, nothing can be done to change this unless the note is totally paid off. As long as you can pay the note & car costs (maintenance, gas, insurance), the lender won't care if he's in a NH. So you can continue to drive it.

On the second: how is he paying for his NH? If Granada has oodles of $ (like 100-300k or more set aside) and he is totally able to private pay for his NH on his own. The car situation as long a you pay for all, won't be a problem for the NH. The issue imo would be that one of his kids (aunt or uncle) or another cousin, gets all pissed off at you getting favoritism by grandpa by his buying a car that you are driving. Or whomever is the DPOA can just decide to sell the car or asking lender to repo it, and done whether you like it or not. If the DPOA & you do not have a good relationship this could be very not pretty ror you. Family can be quite beastly. So think how you would deal with this.

BUT if grandpa is on Medicaid or will run out of $ and needs to apply for Medicaid, then the car becomes a problem. To me there are 3 different problems 1. Although a car is an exempt asset for your grandpa for Medicaid, the states place a limit on the value of the car for the car to qualify as an exempt asset. This is done that they don't go and buy new $$$ car to get around doing a legitimate spend down to qualify for medicaid. Understand? The Medicaid web site should have the specifics on this and what car value maximum is. You need to look into this as it hasn't been over 5 years since he got the 2014 car. Medicaid has a 5 yr lookback (a detailed review) of where the applicants $$ has gone. 2. Ok assuming value is low enough, then when he applies for Medicaid car will need to be included as an exempt asset of his for the application and renewals. Now he won't have any $ to ever pay on the car once on Medicaid as all his SS and other income has to be a co-pay to the NH each month. But if your paying everything on the car and you do this from now till when he dies, then his owning a car & your driving it probably is not an issue. The NH as long as they are getting his copay and $ from medicaid, won't care about the car.
3. BUT when he dies, that car goes from an exempt asset to a nonexempt asset of his estate. If he was on Medicaid, the state is required to do an attempt to recover all costs paid from his estate. This is done though MERP or MERS - it's an estate recovery system & I've done a lot of posts on it on this site. Car is not yours & you cannot have it put into your name without some sort of legal being done both to release the lending on the car (like Nissan would send a notarized letter stating "paid off") and a release from any claim or lien from Medicaid on his estate. To do these would mean he has a will and whomever is named executor in his will actally wants to open probate and deals with the car, estate recovery, etc. Yeah it's not simple......

So what to do? Personally if you were my niece, I'd suggest you try to think of the car situation as a "lease"; it's not yours but you pay all costs like you would do on a lease. And the lease could totally change manana. You make sure that whomever is grandpas DPOA is ok with the car situation and willing to let you do this. Realize you are not building up equity or a better credit score (as its not in your name) but you do have a car you never could get on your own to be able to drive. This is why many people lease as they cannot qualify to "buy" a car. You also have no risk.....its not your credit report or repo problem if you dont make payments. Its on grandpas credit score, so his DPOA may not find depending on you to ge acceptable. Whatever the case, please, please try to set aside $ monthly to have a kitty to get your own modest used car within 2 years. Go to a community bank (rather than Bank of America) or if you are in college go to the bank that is the preferred partner for student accounts, and open banking there and get them to do your first car loan.

? For you, the Insurance - how is this written? His name only; in both names; just your name? And where is the car "garaged"? Where are the insurance bills going? Please post the answer as this is something that may need to get changed.

It's a lot to understand.

Share your answer

Please enter your Answer

Ask a Question

Reach thousands of elder care experts and family caregivers
Get answers in 10 minutes or less
Receive personalized caregiving advice and support