Q&A:Medicaid and the Co-op

Q “My mother and I jointly own her co-op apartment. She is 90 years old and still lives in the co-op. If it becomes a necessity for her to need homecare and possibly go on Medicaid, what would happen to the co-op after she passes? Will Medicaid need to be repaid her share of the co-op? Should I transfer the stock certificate into my name solely?

---Concerned Daughter

A “Before anything else,” says attorney Wendy Fitzsimons, Esq. of the New York law firm Romer Debbas, LLP, “the daughter should confirm that she is indeed a joint owner and that the words “joint tenants with rights of survivorship” are printed on the stock certificate proprietary lease pertaining to the relevant cooperative unit. Assuming it is clear that the property is owned jointly and not as tenants in common (i.e. 50/50 ownership), the cooperative unit would automatically transfer to the daughter at the time of the mother’s death & would not be considered part of the mother’s estate. This is extremely relevant as in New York, in most cases, Medicaid recovery against an estate is limited to assets passing via a will or intestacy.

As for Medicaid, eligibility is determined based on income or resource limits established by the state.Because these limitations change annually it is important to consult an experienced elder law attorney. Currently, the monthly income limit for an individual is $735.00. For a family of two, the limit is $918.00.As a result, if the mother’s monthly income exceeds $735.00, she would likely not qualify for Medicaid.

Similarly, the resource or asset limit for an individual is $14,250.00. For a family of two, the resource limitation is $20,850.00. Exempt from the resource limitation is a primary residence, or homestead, defined below.Also exempt is a one car and household property.

The apartment may qualify for the homestead exemption if it is the mother’s primary residence. The apartment remains exempt as long as she lives there.It should be noted that as of 2011, the homestead exemption limits the amount of equity that can be owned in the apartment to approximately $750,000.

However, if the mother moves into a nursing home and is not expected to return, the apartment would no longer qualify for the exemption. In this instance the mother could transfer the apartment to her daughter provided the daughter has lived in the apartment for 2 years and has been providing care to the mother.

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