The Value of Trusts

The problem with transferring assets is that you have given them away. You no longer control them, and even a trusted child or other relative may lose them. A safer approach is to put them in an irrevocable trust.

Whether trust assets are counted against Medicaid’s resource limits depends on the terms of the trust and who created it. Medicaid considers the principal of revocable trusts (that is, the funds held in the trust) to be assets that are countable in determining Medicaid eligibility. Thus, revocable trusts are of no use in Medicaid planning.

The funds in most irrevocable trusts are counted as available to the applicant for Medicaid if the trust was created by the applicant or his or her spouse. The funds in most trusts created and funded by someone else are not considered available. However, there are some exceptions to these general rules.

For instance, Medicaid does not count the principal of an ‘irrevocable, income-only’ trust as a resource, even if created by the Medicaid applicant or his or her spouse, provided the trustee cannot pay principal to or for the benefit of the nursing home resident or his or her spouse. That is, only the income from the trust is payable.

Another exception to the general rules, in the case of a trust created by someone other than the nursing home resident or his or her spouse, is when the trust document obligates the trustee to make distributions of trust property. In such a case, the trust funds will be considered available to the extent of such obligation. RLF