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Is Hiding Assets in Mom’s Name a Good Idea?

Jennifer told me that her mom’s health had been deteriorating over the past few years and that she would probably need home care soon, with nursing home level care a definite possibility in a few years, if not earlier.  She then told me that her marriage was “on the rocks” and she was placing her own assets she had accumulated into her mom’s name in an effort to protect them from her husband in the case of divorce.

I told her that this could be a real problem if Mom needs nursing home care.  Jennifer told me that her mom has about $300,000 in assets.  With New Jersey nursing home care costing an average of $125,000 per year, I could certainly see the possibility of running out of money.  Jennifer told me her mother did not have long term care insurance so the only other option is one of New Jersey’s Medicaid programs.

I asked Jennifer how much money she had been putting into her mother’s name.  She couldn’t tell me exactly off the top of her head but she estimated it to be a few hundred thousand dollars.  She had bought some real estate and placed it in Mom’s name.  Jennifer didn’t see the problem.

She asked me if this was OK to do.  I told her I am not a matrimonial attorney and couldn’t tell her if “hiding assets” like this is appropriate or could get her in hot water.  But, what I could tell her was that it would definitely be a problem if her mother needs Medicaid benefits at some point in the future.  Hiding assets in the name of an aging parent in declining health is generally not a good idea.  Next week I’ll share with you why.