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Has Your Spouse Moved to a Nursing Home? It May Be Time to Update Your Estate Plan

Has Your Spouse Moved to a Nursing Home? It May Be Time to Update Your Estate Plan

a group of lawyers speaking to an elderly woman

Illinois estate planning attorneys suggest updating your estate plan when a spouse moves into an Illinois nursing home as this is a change in life circumstances. Wills and other legal end-of-life documents should evolve as people’s lives and needs change. Just as people often make updates following marriage, the birth of a child, or a divorce, so too should they consider making modifications when they move a spouse into a long-term care facility.

Protecting Assets When a Spouse Needs Long-Term Care

Modifying the tools and terms of estate plans can help people ensure their spouses receive the long-term care they need and protect their assets. According to, the monthly cost of a nursing home can range between $5,000 and $8,000. Without aid, people may not be able to afford such care, or their assets may be drained covering the costs, which could affect the financial security of the spouse not needing nursing care, or the community spouse. To qualify for assistance, however, couples may need to adjust their estate plans to transfer ownership of jointly held assets to the community spouse.

Those whose spouses live in nursing facilities may consider changing their plans to name their children or other heirs as the sole beneficiaries of their estates. Setting up a testamentary trust for their spouses may allow them to provide for the needs that assistance programs do not cover.

Retaining Medicaid Benefits

Those who rely on Medicaid to pay for their spouses’ long-term care needs should make sure their wills are updated to help ensure ongoing benefit eligibility. Medicaid is a joint state and federal program that covers medical costs for qualifying low-income individuals. Should community spouses pass away first, leaving estates to the spouses in long-term care, they could lose Medicaid eligibility. Consequently, they may be forced to move out of the facility they are living in or pay for their care themselves, which could quickly drain their assets.

Naming a Personal Representative

Important aspects of estate plans for people of all ages, powers of attorney and advance care directives should be updated when a spouse enters long-term care. People commonly name their spouses as their health care proxies or personal representatives. However, a spouse who needs nursing care may lack the necessary physical or mental capacity to fulfill those obligations.

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