No! We get this question all of the time. Many people are concerned about protecting their assets in the event they go into the nursing home. We all know that the nursing home is very expensive, often exceeding $9,000 per month. Of course, none of us ever want to go into the nursing home, but sometimes this is the only place that can provide the correct care for an aging loved one. But the $15,000 per year annual exclusion (2018) relates only to the Federal estate tax annual limit, not to the rules of Medicaid.
Basically, the $15,000 annual gift tax exclusion has nothing to do with the Medicaid 5 year lookback. The Florida rule is that you are not allowed to give away any money if you apply for Medicaid within 5 years of the last gift. This makes sense as the government wants to discourage asset protection or people intentionally imperishing themselves. If you give money away, the gifting creates a transfer penalty. This blog post discusses calculating the Florida Medicaid transfer penalty.
If you want to protect your assets from the nursing home, there are some good ways to do it with good advice from a qualified elder law attorney. But gifting the assets away at $15,000 per year is generally not the way to do it. Giving assets away should be done in a lump sum in certain scenarios, and if you want to try to protect money from the nursing home, would generally be done to an irrevocable asset protection trust.
Importantly, you should seek help from a qualified elder law attorney if you want to protect assets. Sign up for a free seminar on Medicaid, VA and asset protection planning if you want to learn more.
You can read more about gifting and other aspects of Medicaid and the application process with the following articles: