Qualifying for Medicaid in Florida induces a fair amount of anxiety. There’s a lot to consider; from implementing spend-down strategies to gifting assets at least 5 years before applying to avoid penalties, not to mention understanding if and how it affects property like your home. The state of Florida determines your financial eligibility to qualify Medicaid by looking at your assets and seeing which assets of yours should be counted and which assets should be excluded. A commonly asked question is whether you have to sell your home to qualify for Medicaid in Florida.
The short answer is: You don’t have to sell your home to qualify for Medicaid in Florida, as it’s generally exempt so long as you meet specific criteria. However, there are a number of caveats that affect this exemption, which Florida Medicaid applicants should be aware of. Here are some frequently asked questions about protecting your home and qualifying for Medicaid in Florida.
What is a Florida Homestead?
Florida defines a homestead as a permanent residence that is lived in by the same person who owns it. It may occupy no more than half an acre of contiguous land in a municipality. It is a home that you own (not rent) and permanently live in. Legally, you may own many properties, but only one may be classified as a homestead.
What criteria make a homestead exempt for Medicaid qualification?
A homestead that meets the following criteria is exempt from Medicaid qualifications:
- The equity of the homestead is less than $603,000, or
- The homestead or primary residence is jointly owned by a spouse or with someone else who continues to reside there, or
- A dependent SSI-disabled child lives there, or
- The applicant has an “intent-to-return” home if they are applying for nursing home care.
What if my homestead’s value exceeds the equity eligible to qualify for Medicaid?
Equity is defined as the fair market value of your homestead less any debts secured by the home. So, if your home is worth $650,000, but you have an outstanding mortgage of $200,000 then its value is below the qualifying Medicaid threshold.
If you intend to keep your home and do not have a child who is under the age of 21, and/or disabled or blind, or a spouse living there, you can take out a mortgage on the house to draw equity out to qualify for Medicaid in Florida.
What does “intent-to-return” to your home mean?
If you apply for nursing home care benefits and stipulate that you intend to return to your home after receiving care, then it’s still considered an exempt asset, no matter how long you stay in the nursing home. Even if returning home is highly unlikely, the Medicaid application specialist will not challenge the assertion.
However, if you demonstrate you do not wish to return home, i.e., by putting your home on the market to sell or rent, then the house will be considered a countable asset. Keep in mind that these exemptions only apply to the property that is the homestead.
How will selling my house affect qualifying for Medicaid in Florida?
If you sell your house, it is no longer considered an exempt asset unless you purchase another homestead within three months after its sale. Any homestead that is replaced due to loss or damage has a limited replacement time of nine months.
Does marital status affect homestead exemption when qualifying for Medicaid?
If a couple is married and one spouse applies for Medicaid, the house remains an exempt asset, regardless of its value. The at-home or “community spouse” may continue to live in the home. Unless the property is rented, it will not be regarded as a countable asset, even once the applicant returns home.
What if I haven’t already filed my home as a Florida Homestead?
Filing your home as a homestead is important not only for tax exemption but also because it determines the value of your home, which affects your Medicaid application. To qualify for Medicaid in Florida, the state may ask for a current tax bill, a real estate appraisal, and copies of your mortgage.
While your home is a non-countable asset, how much equity you have in your home can affect whether Medicaid pays for your long-term care services. Homestead exemptions must be submitted by March 1 of every year. Late filing is permitted through early September, otherwise, the exemption will be considered the following tax year.
If I die, will my homestead be subject to Medicaid claims?
No, your homestead remains exempt from creditors after your death on the following conditions:
- You have stipulated upon death in your last will and testament that your homestead must go to your heirs, with no direction to sell; and
- You have not rented out your homestead during your lifetime.
How can a Medicaid Planning Attorney help me qualify for Florida Medicaid?
Unless you are sure of your situation and qualifications, qualified legal advice can help you understand your eligibility for Medicaid in Florida and if you need to sell your home to qualify for Medicaid. An experienced Florida Medicaid Planning Attorney can evaluate and restructure your assets to help determine if you can qualify for long-term care, while still preserving your assets for your beneficiaries. They can prepare a Medicaid application on your behalf to minimize risk and ensure no costly mistakes are made.
Experienced and Trusted South Florida Medicaid Planning Attorney
You are not required to sell your home to qualify for Medicaid in Florida. With 20 years of Medicaid Planning experience, South Florida Attorney Barry D. Siegel at The Siegel Law Group, P.A., knows firsthand what can happen if you are unprepared for life’s greatest challenges. A knowledgeable Medicaid Planning Lawyer can provide legal guidance throughout the Medicaid process.