My sister has suffered a series of silent strokes, a minor heart attack and also has dementia. She has been in a nursing home for the past year and is now going through the assets in her IRA to pay the nursing home fee of $9928 per month. We have a joint investment account and also own our house jointly where we have lived for the past 34 years in Illinois. I will probably have to think about applying for Medicaid in the future. Is there any way that I can protect our joint assets from eventually being taken by Medicaid?

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You do need a lawyer who specializes in Elder Law to help you with this. Best wishes!
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You can't protect her assets at this point in time, but you need to protect yours. Get all your investment statements, property details and bank statements for the past year or so, and go see an elder law attorney & asap.

You really want to have a fresh game plan on doing everything for the start of 2015. What you all have is co-mingling of funds. Although this was great for when you were both capable, it now will be a mess to deal with. You will have to clearly establish that 50% is yours, otherwise Medicaid will assume 100% is hers. This is why you need good legal to ferret out how to best do this for how Medicaid runs in your state.

You really need a hard figure that is her's and recreate it to where it was before she went into the NH. You really need to make sure that the moment her assets reach or is anticipated to reach the Medicaid amount, that she applies. You want to be at the ready to show that not a penny of the rest is her's, it's yours.

You probably need to establish before 2015 starts that Sissy has her own bank account that gets her SS and her retirement only. I'd go ahead and do that now so you can on-line change her in Dec, so everything for 2015 starts there for her. You may find that you keep the joint account for the next year but do a solo for her & her income stream & then a solo for you & your income stream. Over time everything moves by your % if ownership to each so by or before the end of next year the joint ceases to exist.

If Sissy does not have a prepaid NCV funeral & burial done, I'd suggest you do that and this will be the last big thing she buys with her own money. Like say you do the looking about and find that the FH will cost $ 8,000.00, so the month that Sissy is down to her last 20K, you pay that month's NH, buy the FH policy and apply for Medicaid. between the NH & the NH will take Sissy down to 2K and so within Medicaid ceiling for assets. The attorney can guide you through all this.

About the house, no worries on that as you can probably show that you were her caregiver for 2 years prior to her going into the NH so will have that exemption to any Medicaid recovery to her 50% of ownership. Good luck.
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Medicaid should receive half of the joint assets to help pay for your sister's care.
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