Question: When a senior enters a nursing home what effect does their marital status have on Masshealth coverage?

Answer: There are two sets of rules for married vs. single applicants for Masshealth long term nursing care coverage. Married folks appear to have it better. Why? Looser standards aim to preserve assets for the spouse living at home.

For instance, in order to qualify for Masshealth, a married applicant’s financial assets (not including real estate) must be below approx. $140,000. Meanwhile, a single applicant must have below $2,000. This difference is shocking to some. However, consider that Masshealth does not want to impoverish the likely elderly spouse living at home.

Masshealth will also allow a married applicant’s residence to be deeded to his or her spouse without being counted as an asset subject to lien. This interspousal transfer of a home has no lookback period (vs. a deed to a child which requires 5 years before being considered valid by Masshealth). We have actually worked with couples to get married late in life, when beneficial and appropriate.

Long term unmarried elderly couples, are well advised to consider these benefits of marriage on long term Masshealth planning. However, run your financial numbers first, as marriage may harm a couple with greater assets. It’s crazy this analysis leaves out all romantic considerations.

Attorney James Haroutunian practices real estate law, estate planning and probate at 790 Boston Road, Billerica, MA. He gladly invites questions at or by phone at 978-671-0711. His website blog is found at .