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Could my son-in-law use his parents money to remodel their unfinished basement into living space for them without this being a problem should the parents need medicaid help anytime within the next five years?

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Dustien, a chair lift is a grand idea only if the parents would use it.... I know my Dad would be the first to take a test drive in that chair, but my Mom would be terrified to use it. Thus if she wasn't mobile enough to walk up stairs, then all her meals would need to be taken downstairs.

Decades ago when I was a license real estate Agent I had a couple from another country looking for a home.... they point blank asked me "why do Americans put their parents in the basement or over the garage?".... their culture would never do that. Of course, back then retirement villages were far and few between... such places are growing like weeds in my area.
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Oh, Dustien, that changes a whole lot my reaction. I'm sorry. If only I could withdraw that post and what I said in it! I guess when I saw "their" downstairs in your question I thought you meant their downstairs, meaning their basement.

But rightness it's 4 am and I do need to get some sleep. Certainly I will re-think your question! (Although wherever the space is remodeled a room for help to remain over-night would be helpful.)
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French, I'm sorry, my question wasn't clear. It's the basement of his house he'd be remodeling to move his parents into. This is not going to be happening tomorrow, but he knows his mom, who is in poor healthy now, is going to need a lot of help in the not too distant future. As it is now his parents live over an hour away and he is currently kicking around things he could do, if the need should arise, so he and my daughter would be in a position to care for them.
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I have to say there is something strange about remodeling an unfinished downstairs basement as a living site when his parents already have the full upstairs level in which to go on living.. What is his point? He could make all the changes in the world to the parents present living quarters, in order to make it totally safe and enjoyable for them, and he would be doing these remodeling changes to a house in which they have lived together and have been intimately familiar. Doing the basement, which of course first off entails steps and then possibly down the road the expense perhaps of a lift chair, seems to be a non-starter to me. Unless of course he wants to take over for himself the upstairs living area and relegate his parents to the basement. In which case he is not looking after their best interests. But that's another situation and another discussion all together.

If he is truly remodeling the basement and does have his parent's best interests at heart he could include space for a full-time live-in caregiver. Then additional short-term caregivers can be added to the rotation should they be needed at some point way down the line.

I really do think your son-in-law should go back to the drawing board on this scheme. And he should also consider that there also might be better uses for their hard-earned money in any event.
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Thanks all! Freq...a radon test would be a good idea.

Pam, my son in law lives in Arkansas.

It would be a full walk out basement in the back so no problem putting in a large picture window and sliding glass doors leading out onto a patio. They could also install a lift chair on the stairway going to the main level if they needed to.

I had an artist friend who was in his 80s and his walk out basement was a terrific guest area when they had company and an equally wonderful studio when it wasn't needed for guests. He had a chair lift on the stairs going down and used it religiously after he nearly fell going down the stairs one day when his wife wasn't home. I'm a firm believer in stair lift chairs if needed.

You can see his art at jackhetterich.
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If the Elder Law attorney says it is ok to removed don't forget when it comes to basements, one also has to think ahead as to mobility going up and down the basement stairs depending on the design of the home.

Also getting a radon test if it has been awhile since the last test was done, one wouldn't want elders or anyone sleeping or spending quality time in the basement with a high radon level.

Also making a basement into sleeping quarters, there has to be a window in the bedroom that is large enough that a firefighter can crawl through while wearing an oxygen tank. And an easy exit for the elders to leave the basement if the stairs are blocked for some reason.

So many things to think about. Hope everything works out.
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In what state does your son-in-law reside?
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There are ways to do this and not create a gift or penalty, but you would need a lawyer to word the contract properly. Ask K.Gabriel Heiser or buy his book, which just came out in a new 2015 edition.
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Is he considering remodeling his parents house so he and his wife can move in with them to take care of them? Or remodeling his own home, to allow his parents to move in with them?

Increasing the value of their son's home might be seen as a gift. Certainly doing anything of this magnitude should be run by an Elder Law attorney. And why not do that soon? It is never to early to get the basic documents in place.
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Thanks fregflyer. Talking to an Elder Attorney is always good advice. He's not at the point yet that he needs to do it yet, though, and was just wondering if that would be an option when the time that help is needed comes. I told him I'd ask on this site and see what folks thought.
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I would suggest that your son-in-law have a chat with an Elder Law attorney as there are rules and regulations within that State regarding spend down... like what is allowed and what isn't... if there is a time limit, etc. It's enough to make your head spin.
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