Can Medicaid Take Your House? Understanding the Risks

For many Florida seniors, their home represents their most valuable asset. It’s where they raised their children, celebrated holidays and milestones, and hoped to pass on to future generations.

So when a health crisis arises, and Medicaid becomes necessary to cover long-term care costs, clients naturally worry: Can Medicaid take my house?

It’s a valid concern. Let’s walk through what Medicaid estate recovery entails, when liens can happen, and how proper planning can help protect your home.

How Medicaid Estate Recovery Works in Florida

Medicaid serves as a crucial safety net, paying for health services for low-income individuals. To recapture some costs, federal law requires states to seek repayment from the estates of certain Medicaid recipients after death through estate recovery programs.

In Florida, the Medicaid Estate Recovery Program kicks in for recipients 55 and older once they pass away. The state must attempt to be reimbursed for Medicaid payments made on their behalf—once limited to nursing home care but now including related hospital and prescription fees.

However, regulations prohibit recovery from a surviving spouse or child under 21 while they still live in a Medicaid recipient’s home. The state also can’t pursue repayment when an inheriting sibling has special needs and relies significantly on the home.

Targeting Probate Estates

Florida—like all states—can only seek reimbursement from the deceased recipient’s probate estate. This includes assets like solely owned property and funds that pass through probate.

Non-probate property is shielded, including surviving spouse assets and jointly held real estate. Proper titling of ownership and transfer before applying for Medicaid can protect such assets.

When Can a Lien Be Placed on Your Home?

Seeking repayment is one thing—but could Medicaid confiscate or force the sale of your home after accepting benefits?

Rest assured, Medicaid cannot immediately seize your property or home if you follow program rules. However, the state may file a Lien to prevent selling or transferring ownership of real estate without permission while receiving assistance.

The Lien secures the state’s status as a creditor, lined up to recover what they are owed if the Medicaid recipient passes away or the home sells.

After Death Repayment Requirement

That Lien activates full repayment obligations once the Medicaid beneficiary dies. Florida must seek compensation from the recipient’s estate for Medicaid costs—either long-term care expenses or perhaps high medical bills.

If inheritors wish to sell or transfer the property title after the recipient dies, the state can require proceeds to first repay Medicaid before releasing their claim.

Strategies to Protect Assets Like Your Home

Given enough advanced planning, there are options to avoid Medicaid Estate Recovery claims. This can prevent the state from forcing a sale after you pass to repay Medicaid costs.

Getting assets like a home out of your individual estate before applying is an effective approach. As we learned, Medicaid can only seek reimbursement from a recipient’s probate property—so transferring deeds ahead of time offers protection.

Placing your home under joint ownership with a child or loved one also exempts it as non-probate property unavailable to creditors. Maintaining one small share to occupy the home still prevents disqualification yet shields most value.

Special Needs Trusts similarly remove assets like houses from Medicaid estate recovery exposure. These customized legal structures only benefit disabled beneficiaries without impacting their qualification for public assistance.

Take Control of Your Future With Proper Planning

While Medicaid can attempt to recover expenses against your home after you pass away, smart strategies exist to reduce this risk substantially.

Don’t wait until you’ve already applied and been approved for Medicaid to start asking these questions. By then, it may be too late.

Meet with an experienced elder law attorney before applying for Medicaid to map out a comprehensive plan. Let them advise you on the most effective ways to protect your home and preserve your legacy.

The attorneys at Elder Needs Law have helped hundreds of Florida families qualify for Medicaid without losing their homes. Schedule a consultation today to discuss your options.