I am listed as a joint owner on my mother’s checking and savings accounts. Does this protect half of the monies in these accounts if my mom were to require nursing home care?
No. For Medicaid eligibility purposes, a joint bank account such as a checking or savings account, is considered the applicant’s assets unless one can prove that the joint account holder has contributed their own funds to the account. The advantages of having the account titled this way is that during your mother’s lifetime, you can help her pay her bills in that you can easily access these accounts. Upon your mother’s death, the proceeds would automatically become yours and would thereby be accessible for purposes of paying funeral costs and/or other expenses without having to await the appointment of an executor for your mother’s estate.
In the case of brokerage accounts, the opposite is true in that if your are listed on the account as a joint tenant with rights of survivorship (JTWROS) or tenants in common, then half of the account would be considered yours and half of the account would be considered your mother’s for purposes of Medicaid eligibility. However, it is important to note that when an individual adds a joint owner on a brokerage account, it is viewed as a gift of one- half of the account. As a result, for purposes of Medicaid eligibility, adding an individual to such an account would incur a penalty period or period of ineligibility for Medicaid purposes if the individual account owner was to require nursing home care within five years of the change to the account. Additionally, there may be subsequent tax ramifications (i.e. capital gains tax) when the stock is sold.
Depending on how the brokerage account is titled will determine what portion of the account you will be entitled to at mom’s death. If the account is entitled joint tenants with rights of survivorship, then you automatically become the owner at your mother’s death. If the brokerage account is titled tenants in common, then you remain the owner of your one half, and the other half will pass in accordance with your mother’s Will or pursuant to a beneficiary designation on the account.