Q: My elderly parents have Proctor & Gamble stock and a house that is paid off. We may be faced with putting my father in a nursing home. How can we protect their assets without my mom going bankrupt paying for my father’s care? Can she gift the stock to her children?

A: There is a five-year look back period for Medicaid. If your father goes into a nursing home, and your mother tries to transfer all assets out of the estate so that your father qualifies for state or federal aid, a judge can look for assets that were transferred or sold over the previous five years and possibly reverse the transactions.

The assets your parents have are supposed to be used for their care in their old age.

Your mother should speak with a qualified elder care attorney about what, if anything, can be done to protect her from going bankrupt (which shouldn’t be necessary to apply for Medicaid).

Jan. 19, 2009.