Can a Nursing Home Take Your House in Iowa?

For many people, their home is the most valuable asset they own. This is especially true for the older population who may have paid off the mortgage and spent much of their savings on living expenses.

So what happens when a person in this situation needs to go into a nursing home? The average cost of care in Iowa is well over $7,000 per month. Can the facility take your house to pay for your care? Can the government take it?

Let’s find out what’s allowed under the law and what you can do to protect yourself and your family.

Beware of the Fine Print in Nursing Home Contracts

Whether entering a nursing home for short-term rehabilitation or long-term care, no one is happy about the situation. The process is usually accompanied by a great deal of uncertainty and emotional turmoil.

In this painful situation, the nursing home will dump a pile of papers in your lap and ask you to sign on the dotted line of page 274. Is anyone going to read all of those pages? Even if you take the time to read all the terms of an admission agreement and other paperwork, do you have the training and knowledge to understand the implication of each term?

Unless you’re an elder law attorney, the answer is “probably not.” Before signing, it is wise to review the terms in detail with an experienced legal advisor. If there are terms that could cause problems down the road, your attorney may be able to negotiate a better solution, or help you find better terms elsewhere.

Problems to Watch for in Admission Agreements

Can a nursing home take your house? Absolutely – if you agree to it in writing. Before anyone signs anything, read through each statement. Watch for the following potential problem terms:

  • A provision requiring a family member or friend to guarantee payment or assume liability. The agreement will often refer to the “responsible party.” That is the person who will have to pay for expenses. If someone needs to sign as guardian or power of attorney, they should clearly indicate that role along with the signature.
  • Financial guarantee required before admission. This is a violation of federal law.
  • Waiver of Medicaid rights or a promise not to apply for Medicaid. This is also a violation of federal law
  • Joint and several liability. This can be an attempt to make a third party responsible for cost of care if Medicaid or other insurance is late with a payment.

The contract will include payment terms, and you need to ensure that you understand the implications. The contract could allow the nursing home to take possession of your home to cover costs, but if your spouse still lives in the home, you may be able to take steps to prevent or at least delay possession.

Can Medicaid Take Your House?

If you qualify for Medicaid benefits to pay for nursing home care, you are generally allowed to keep your home. However, after you pass away, Iowa Medicaid may seek reimbursement from your estate, and this could require the sale of your home. An experienced elder law attorney can help you take steps in advance to prevent this from happening.  

Get the Right Legal Advice to Protect Your Family from Out-of-Control Nursing Home Costs

If you are being asked to accept responsibility for another person’s care expenses or if you have signed an agreement in the past agreeing to do so, it is a good idea to talk to an attorney as soon as possible. It may be possible to challenge the provision on a variety of legal grounds. 

At Huizenga Law, we understand the financial pitfalls that can be hidden within nursing home contracts and Medicaid program applications. We can work with your family to develop the best plan to meet needs and protect your assets. Contact us now to get started.