Previous posts on this blog have touched on the fact that couples in North Carolina who are advancing in years may need to think about how to plan for a long-term stay in a nursing home or other facility.

Because private insurance is expensive and many people just do not have the means to both afford their own late-in-life care and maintain a legacy for their children, many residents of the Rocky Mount area may discover that they are going to have to rely on the federal Medicaid program to cover their extended care.

Medicaid is supposed to be for those of limited means, and so there are rather strict asset and income limits that a person must fall under in order to qualify for the program.

When it comes to estate planning, the important thing to remember is that Medicaid also has what is dubbed a look-back period. In North Carolina, this period extends back 60 months, or five years, from the date a person applies for Medicaid.

During this time, the government will examine whether the applicant gave away assets, even to family members, or sold property below fair market value. If it turns out the applicant did so, he or she may not be able to get Medicaid benefits for a number of months due to legal penalties.

What this means is that those who think they will need help from Medicaid need to start planning early so that they can dispose of extra assets in an orderly fashion that will not result in a penalty. There are also certain transfers a person may make without incurring a look-back penalty. North Carolina estate planning lawyers can assist residents with this process.