How Can You Protect Your Spouse From A Hefty Assisted Living Bill?

If you are older than your spouse -- or hold more assets in only your name -- you may be wondering what you can do to protect your spouse in the event you need assisted living or nursing care near the end of your life. These facilities can be pricey, and without proper estate planning, your spouse may be forced to sell your marital home or liquidate other assets in order to pay for your care or allow you to qualify for government assistance.

Read on to learn more about what you can do to protect your spouse from paying a hefty assisted living bill for your care:

Create a trust

Creating an irrevocable living trust during your lifetime can help your spouse maintain your current lifestyle while living alone, as well as continuing to direct your assets long after your death. When you create an irrevocable trust, you no longer have the power to remove assets once they've been deposited (as they now belong to the trust).

However, you'll be able to set up the trust to provide a life estate for your spouse, which can allow your spouse to use some trust assets for expenses for the rest of his or her life. You can then direct the trust assets remaining after the death of your spouse to another relative or to a charity.

One of the primary benefits to this type of trust is that it can allow you to qualify for Medicaid -- which can help pay for your long-term care without requiring your spouse to spend down your assets or sell your home. Your assets can continue to be utilized for your family's benefit while your care is covered through other funds.

Start early

Because Medicaid has a 5-year look back period, any irrevocable trusts designed to funnel your assets to your spouse after you need care must be settled early. If you need care within 5 years of establishing the trust, you'll have to pay for this care yourself until 5 years has passed from the time the assets were originally transferred to the trust.

If you don't need care yet -- but feel that you won't last 5 years without it -- you may want to elect to keep some assets back to pay for the care you anticipate until you've hit the 5 year threshold. Otherwise, you may find yourself in a situation where you're unable to use your own assets now that they belong to the trust, but are being "charged" for transferring these assets and are made ineligible for Medicaid.

If you want to know more or have other questions, click here for more information and help from professional attorneys.