“We Screwed Up, Huh?”


He is 80 years old but looks like mid-60s.  When I told him that, he remarked, “Thanks, but the old noodle is giving out.  Doctor says I’ve got dementia.”  His wife nodded in vigorous affirmation.  She added, “He goes to the store with a list, but always messes it up.”  She was not trying to be hurtful—rather, she just wanted me to know how things really sit.  This time, he nodded in animated agreement.

They have been clients for years, and they had urgently called to “get their affairs in order.”  He has his brain scan results, and she has emphysema and COPD.  She has already signed a DNR for herself.

As I listened to the facts, she threw me a bombshell.  “I heard about the five-year Medicaid look-back rules, so I cashed in my IRA and gave $10,000 to each of our four adult children.”  I gulped and said, “That was a mistake.  Based on what you have told me about your health and your assets, it is highly likely that one of you will need nursing home care before 2015.  Your gifts to your children will create a six- to eight-month penalty period of ineligibility for Medicaid nursing home benefits.

She asked, “What should we do?”

I answered, “You should call your family members and tell them that you made a mistake and to please give you back the money.”

Her look told me that she would never do that.

Her husband said, “We screwed up, huh?  We should have called you first.”

Most elderly clients who give away money due to a medical crisis will need long-term care within a short period of time.  If you know a client or a client family member who is thinking about giving away assets “to protect them from being lost to nursing home expenses,” please tell them to call an elder law attorney first.  Our firm can be reached at 630-585-5200 or Contact Us

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