Cousin gave us money. Will we have to give it back to cousin’s nursing home?

Q: Pa and NJ nursing home 5 year look back. My wife and I each received $10,000 from her cousin in February of 2010. Can nursing take money back? We reside in NJ and PA. Wife’s cousin will have to go into nursing home prior to the 5 years in February 2015. The cousin currently receives PA Medicaid for health coverage. Will the nursing home make us give the money back? (which has been spent) Will there be a penalty term?

A: There is some confusion in your question so I strongly urge you to sit down with an attorney with all of your information. Simply put, a nursing home cannot make a donee who did nothing wrong return a gift. However, most gifts within the look back period trigger Medicaid penalties. It would be well worth an elder law attorney consult to determine gift ramifications and Medicaid planning options. It is the Medicaid look back, which is 5 years back from the date of eligibility, which matters. The transfer may be questioned. If you are alleging it was payment for caretaker services, you better have such services documented.