By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann, a Freehold, NJ Medicaid Eligibility Attorney

Can a parent make improvements to a child’s home when they are moving in with their child as opposed to a nursing home, and at what point do these payments become a gift causing ineligibility for Medicaid benefits.

You’re likely to get vague answers on most legal blogs that state, in short, yes a parent can pay for improvements to a child’s home, but talk to a lawyer to structure the payments so that your state Medicaid agency doesn’t treat the payments as gifts – which is not very helpful.

In a recent conversation with a representative at the New Jersey Medicaid eligibility office, the County Board of Social Services evaluates applications at the time they are received. She did say it would be important to save all the receipts for the improvements in this hypothetical. I asked her whether there were specific guidelines they followed in distinguishing a gift from an exempt payment for improvements. She said they follow state and federal rules, and the best she could offer me is that they look at what improvements were made and they see whether they were really for the purpose of making the home adequate for the parent. She also said they take into consideration how elaborate the improvements are (i.e. granite counter tops as opposed to Formica).

This representative did not have an answer for what would happen in the case of the value of improvements exceeding the value of the life estate a parent can buy in the child’s home after living in the home for one year. N.J.S.A. 10:71-4.10(b)(6)(iii). Her response is that it would all have to be evaluated on a case by case basis at the time the application was received. My suggestion! Come in and discuss your thinking and plan. Some improvements will be definite yes and others no. But let’s strategize together.

To discuss your NJ Medicaid matter, please contact Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or email him at fniemann@hnlawfirm.com. Please ask us about our video conferencing consultations if you are unable to come to our office.