Will Medi-Cal Count my Spouse’s Separate Assets?

In community property states like California, marriage is viewed as a partnership in which both spouses share assets equally, and divide those assets upon divorce. However, some property – such as an inheritance received by one spouse that is kept separate from the couples’ shared assets – is considered separate property; the other spouse has no claim to it.

Unfortunately, when it comes to Medi-Cal, there is no such thing as “separate property.” Medi-Cal will count all of a spouse’s separate assets when determining a married applicant’s Medi-Cal eligibility. To qualify for Medi-Cal, an applicant’s total married assets cannot exceed $119,220.

Some couples will go through a divorce just to protect their separate assets! While I would never recommend such a move, I understand the inclination. Fortunately, there are less drastic measures you can take in order to qualify for Medi-Cal while protecting your assets at the same time.

One strategy is “spending down,” which is Medi-Cal’s term for spending excess funds on acceptable expenses, such as paying off a mortgage, completing a long-needed home improvement, or purchasing a funeral and burial contract. Any money you spend must be spent on yourself. You can’t just give the money away.

The options listed above do not include all possible asset protection strategies and are not to be considered legal advice. Always consult with a qualified Estate Planning and Elder Law Attorney, who can guide you through the above asset protection strategies, help protect your estate, and ensure you or your spouse qualify for Medi-Cal benefits.

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