Personal Finance: Ask the Experts

Get advice on money matters from The Bee's Claudia Buck and a panel of local experts

June 10, 2013
Will my mom be forced to sell her house if she receives long-term care help from Medi-Cal?

My mom has her home in a revocable trust. My dad is deceased. Her annual income is approximately $30,000 and she has some savings. She is worried that the state will "take her home" if she requires long-term care and exhausts her savings. What would happen? Can she be forced to sell the house or would liens be filed? My aunt who has no trust but a will and is low income, met with an elder care attorney who said he would "fix it" so she would not lose her home and offered to do the same for my mom for a substantial fee. She did not understand how he is able do this. Can you explain the process and how it relates to the trust? Thanks.

A: I can understand your mom's concerns and the promise that she would not lose her home is a tempting one, were it not for the "substantial fee" that it would cost her to have this promise fulfilled.

I am going to assume that the scenario your mother is concerned about is as you have stated, that is, she has exhausted her savings, is no longer able to stay in her home and requires long-term care in a nursing home. Medi-Cal does not provide benefits for long-term care in, for example, a residential care facility for the elderly. Your mom then applies for and qualifies for Medi-Cal coverage because she does not have sufficient funds to pay for the cost of her long-term care, and since her home is exempt she qualifies. What happens to her house? If she owns her house upon her death, whether or not it is in her revocable trust, Medi-Cal will recover against it what has been paid for her, but only after she dies.

An excellent resource that provides a good discussion of the rather complex area of Medi-Cal planning, eligibility and recovery can be found at, which is the website for California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform. There is a section titled "Medi-Cal for Long Term Care" which provides an overview of long-term care under the Medi-Cal program and a FAQ section on Medi-Cal Recovery.

As to whether the house is titled in your mom's revocable trust, or your aunt's in her name alone to be transferred by a will at her death, makes no difference for Medi-Cal recovery purposes.

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Meet Our Financial Experts

Claudia Buck

Claudia Buck is The Sacramento Bee's personal finance columnist. Read all her columns here. Contact her at

Terri Carpenter

Terri Carpenter offers advice on job hunting, retraining and career counseling. Carpenter works at Sacramento Works Inc., the career and job training arm of the Sacramento Employment and Training Agency (SETA). With 15 years in the field, she has hands-on experience with everyone from first-time job seekers to career professionals seeking advice after a layoff or looking for a mid-career change. Ask her a question.

Carlena Tapella

Carlena Tapella is a partner in the law firm of Webb & Tapella Law Corp. in Sacramento. The firm specializes in estate planning and probate, such as estates, trusts, conservatorships and litigation. She is a past president of the Sacramento County Bar Association's Estate Planning & Probate Section. Ask her a question.

Kimberly Foss

Kimberly Foss, certified financial planner, is the founder of Empyrion Wealth Management in Roseville. With nearly 30 years in the financial industry, her clients include women in transition, small business owners, retirees and "pre-retirees." Ask her a question.

Jesse Weller

Gregory Burke, a CPA and tax expert with John Waddell & Co. in Sacramento since 1984, worked as an IRS tax auditor for six years. He’s a past chairman of the California Society of CPAs. Ask him a question.

Daniel Tahara

Daniel Tahara takes your questions about California taxes. Tahara, a spokesman for the state Franchise Tax Board, has 10 years of experience as a tax auditor. Ask him a question.

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