I am an attorney working in a state elder advocacy agency in enighboring Wisconsin. Although you correctly surmise that the laws differ from state to state, there are some (federally mandated) similarities. For instance, the "look-back" time limit for gifting is not the same as the time for creating a trust acocunt. Most states use a 36 month window for gifts and a 60 month limit on trusts. In other words, if you give assets to a person (or sell the asset for less than its market value) and then, 24 months later, need to utilize Medicaid to finance care in a nuirsing home, the state MA agency will delay beginning of benefits for a period that is determined by the average monthly cost of nursing home care divided into the value of the asset given away.
An authoritative source for local information is the Area Agency on Aging in the county that your in-laws live in. This is a state agency (or private entity under contract to the state) and their number should be in the local phone book. Most AAAs either will have someone on hand who knows this stuff or they will know where to refer you to find the info you need.