Though most people want to live their lives to the fullest until their last moments, many people experience serious physical and mental decline that could result in difficulties in their elderly years. It is not unusual for individuals over the age of 65 to need some type of long-term care, so planning is always a wise step to take.

If you are thinking of ways to get your affairs in order to offset any financial concerns that long-term care could present in the future, you may be considering Medicaid. Though this benefits program can help qualifying individuals cover certain expenses associated with care, the keyword is “qualifying.” If your assets exceed the amount determined by Medicaid as an eligibility requirement, you may need to strategize.

Are you completely disqualified?

Because Medicaid is a program to help low-income seniors or those with limited resources, the program sets limits on how much a person can have in terms of income and assets before qualifying. This does not necessarily mean that you are out of luck. If your current assets exceed the limit, you can take steps to spend down or remove assets from your estate in efforts to qualify.

Medicaid review

Of course, simply giving your assets away or putting them into a trust right before applying for benefits is not the way it works. Medicaid conducts a review of an applicant’s financial affairs to determine eligibility, and it performs a five-year look-back to assess the money moves made during that time. If you apply for benefits after making significant financial changes within the last five years, you will likely face a penalty period, during which you would not receive benefits. However, after that period, you could receive benefits.

Planning ahead

In a best-case scenario, you would make any necessary money moves at least five years before needing Medicaid so that you could potentially qualify and avoid a penalty period. Of course, it is difficult to predict when long-term care might be necessary and when to make financial changes.

Fortunately, if you believe that Medicaid planning is in your interests, you can discuss your options with knowledgeable elder law attorneys in Ohio who could explain your options, help you determine a timeline for making changes and assist you during the planning process. Waiting until the last minute for anything can cause issues, and you certainly do not want to face financial burdens due to long-term care expenses.