When one member of a couple moves to a nursing home, we expect that spouse will be the first to die, but this isn't always the case. What happens if a Medicaid recipient's spouse dies first? If planning steps aren't taken, the death of a spouse can affect the nursing home resident's assets and eligibility for Medicaid.
When one member of an elderly couple moves to a nursing home, even as a Medicaid beneficiary, proper estate planning must be done for both spouses. Failure to plan for the "community spouse" can have unintended consequences.
It is not uncommon. One spouse, the institutional spouse, is in a nursing home and is qualified to receive Medicaid benefits to pay for their care. The other spouse, the community spouse, remains at home. Typically, the institutional spouse dies first, but not always.
The issues arising when the community spouse dies first was the subject of a recent article in ElderLawAnswer.com titled "Staying Eligible for Medicaid after the Death of a Spouse."
When one spouse passes away, especially the one not receiving benefits, it affects the surviving spouse in many financial ways that can jeopardize the very benefits keeping them in the nursing home and receiving the care they need.