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Transferring the Home

Dear Advocate

My dad will be going into a nursing home in the next month or so, and we’re not sure if he will be coming home. He will be applying for Medi-Cal, but we (my mom and I) are worried that the state will take their home when he dies. I live with my mother and dad, and my parents would like to transfer the home to me. Can they do that? Will my dad still be eligible for Medi-Cal?

Worried in Watsonville

Dear Worried:

Both federal and state laws allow Medi-Cal recipients to transfer a home: (1) to a spouse (2) to a minor, blind or disabled child – even if they don’t live in the home (3) to a sibling with an equity interest who has lived in the home for at least a year prior to the institutionalization or (4) to a son or daughter who has lived in the home for at least two years prior to the institutionalization of the parent, if they provided care that enabled the parent to remain at home. California also has a fifth exemption – i.e., if the person states an “intent to return home,” then the principal residence is exempt and can be transferred to anyone.

So, yes, your father can transfer his part of the home to your mother – which would eliminate any estate claim upon his death, or just to you — but you need to check on any potential tax consequences. This is not only legal for the purposes of Medi-Cal, but the county eligibility workers and the nursing homes are required by law to provide your father and mother a notice of their rights to transfer the home.

Any property transfers in this context should be reviewed by a qualified Medi-Cal knowledgeable estate planning attorney. Real property transfers usually involve tax consequences that might outweigh the benefits of the transfer. If you need a referral, contact CANHR’s Lawyer Referral Services.