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5 Do’s and Don’ts of Medi-Cal Planning

Categories: Estate Planning

Applying for and qualifying for Medi-Cal is a complicated process because of the complex rules involved. Additionally, protecting your assets from Medi-Cal takes in-depth knowledge of the Medi-Cal laws and exemptions. Here are some key do’s and don’ts when considering applying for Medi-Cal.

1. Timing is Everything. Plan Early.
The earlier you start planning for the Medi-Cal qualification process, the flexibility you have and the more assets you can protect. Some people mistakenly believe that they can just give some or all of their assets to their children or other individuals so that they can qualify for Medi-Cal. In actuality, part of Medi-Cal planning can involve giving some of your assets to others, but this has to be done with extreme caution and should only be done with the advice of an experienced Medi-Cal planning lawyer. If you give away your assets at the wrong time, or use the wrong method, you can potentially delay your qualification for Medi-Cal and/or subject the assets to Medi-Cal recovery claims for reimbursement. Remember, Medi-Cal can look back 30 months into the past to see if you have made any inappropriate transfers.

2. Consult with a Medi-Cal Planning Attorney before applying for Medi-Cal.
A skilled Medi-Cal attorney will know all of the intricacies of the Medi-Cal rules and exemptions, and most importantly, will know how to protect your assets from Medi-Cal recovery and exclude them as “countable assets” during the Medi-Cal application process. Proper planning can include, among other things, creating a trust, proper spend down techniques, and funeral planning.

3. Spend down wisely
There is often no need to spend all, or even most, of your assets on nursing home care before you can qualify for Medi-Cal coverage. The Medi-Cal guidelines have built-in “safe harbor” provisions that allow you to plan ahead and protect your assets. There are strategies for recharacterizing or giving your assets that allows you to be eligible for Medi-Cal without depriving your family.

4. Don’t always believe what you hear
Some of the most common misconceptions about Medi-Cal include that there is a 5 year look back or that you can just gift your assets to qualify for Medi-Cal. Both of this are false. In California, the look back period is 30 months, not five years. Additionally, you cannot just gift assets to friends and family without penalty for Medi-Cal purposes. There are legal ways to protect your assets and/or dispose of your assets so that you can qualify for Medi-Cal. This is why consulting with a skilled Medi-Cal planning attorney is so important.

5. Don’t make mistakes on the Medi-Cal application…it can be costly
The Medi-Cal application can be quite confusing and require as many as 30 supporting documents. Once the application is submitted, it is subject to investigation and verification. Mistakes on the application could cause you to either no qualify for benefits or have your benefits delayed by months or even years. Getting proper guidance and advice on the Medi-Cal application process is invaluable.