What happens to Medicaid if I get married?

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Q. I have heard that if a Medicaid recipient gets married, they not only lose their benefits, but they have to pay back to the state the benefit amounts they received while on Medicaid. Basically, can Medicaid attach the new spouse’s assets to recoup the benefits paid?
— Lucky in love

A. It’s a great question.

No one wants to end up with surprise costs, especially after a new marriage.

A Medicaid recipient may lose benefits if they marry a person who has significant assets and income, said Shirley Whitenack, an estate planning attorney with Schenck, Price, Smith & King in Florham Park.

That’s because Medicaid is a means-tested program that counts the assets and income of both spouses.

It’s also important to understand what happens when a Medicaid recipient dies.

Under federal and New Jersey law, Medicaid is required to recover funds from the estates of deceased current or former Medicaid recipients for all expenditures provided through the Medicaid program for services received on or after age 55, she said.

“For Medicaid estate recovery determinations, an estate includes any property that belonged to the deceased Medicaid recipient or former Medicaid recipient at the time of death or at the moment prior to his or her death,” she said. “Estates include property such as the deceased person’s house, bank accounts , whether held solely or jointly, trusts, annuities, stocks and bonds, and any other real or personal property.”

But Medicaid cannot attach the assets of new spouses if they were not in the name of the Medicaid recipient or former Medicaid recipient at the time of the Medicaid recipient’s death or at the moment prior to death, she said.

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This story was originally published on Feb. 15, 2022.

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