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Question for the Money Doctors

Question submitted on Aug 2, 2013.


My 80+ year-old parents both receive social security, their only source of income. Because their combined income STILL is not sufficient for them to live in their home, family members have been "lending" money to them each month to make ends meet. If either parent ends up in a nursing home, and likely eligible for Medicaid, will the spouse remaining in the home no longer have use of the other spouse''s social security income needed to pay his/her living expenses?


I’m sorry to hear about your family’s challenges. The parent who would stay at home (often referred to as the community spouse) would be protected by federal laws called spousal impoverishment provisions. They include income protection for the community spouse known as the Minimum Monthly Maintenance Needs Allowance (MMMNA). Income from the spouse in the nursing home can be kept by the community spouse up to the MMMNA. You should be able to find the MMMNA amount in your state with an internet search. Online MMMNA calculators can help you determine the amount relevant to your parents’ situation. Keep in mind that spousal impoverishment provisions can also protect assets—like their home. If they own their home, I find it particularly important to seek legal guidance from an elder law attorney. Protecting assets involves legal technicalities which make the attention of a specialist worthwhile.

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