Could You Be Held Responsible for Your Parent’s Nursing Home Debt?

At some point in your life, you will likely face a time when you will have to decide if one of your parents needs to be placed in a nursing home. The emotional effects of such a decision can be heart-wrenching, but you will also need to consider the financial impact of that decision. The cost of a nursing home can be as high as $8,000 a month, which means it can quickly deplete your parent’s life savings. Not only that, but it could impact your finances as well.

Some states have laws that hold adult children responsible for the financial side of their parent’s long-term care. These laws are referred to as filial responsibility laws. Roughly half of the states in the U.S. have these laws, and although they vary from state to state, they all can make a person legally responsible for the nursing home debt resulting from their parent’s care. An elder law attorney can advise you in detail about how the laws in the state where you or your parent reside affect your filial responsibility.

Understanding Filial Responsibility Laws

States with filial responsibility laws may require adult children to pay for their parent’s medical care if certain conditions are met. These conditions include the following:

  •     The parent is receiving financial support from the government
  •     The parent has accumulated medical bills or nursing home costs in a state which filial responsibility laws are in place, and the parent cannot pay these expenses themselves
  •     The parent has been classified as an indigent, meaning their expenses exceed their benefits from Social Security
  •     The parent does not qualify for Medicaid
  •     The caregiver believes that the adult child has the means to pay the costs for their parent and chooses to sue the adult child

Responsibilities of Adult Children

Some states do not have filial responsibility laws. In these states, the spouse may be held liable for the medical expenses, but it does not make an adult child responsible for the medical expenses of their parent. Children may only be held responsible for such debts if they agree to pay for the expenses as a co-signer. To be considered a co-signer, the adult child must sign an Explanation of Guarantor’s Obligation and other relevant billing forms. If you signed such an agreement, you will likely be held responsible for the costs of your parent’s care if they are unable to pay for the costs themselves.

Contact an Elder Law Attorney Today

If you have any questions or concerns about elder law and estate planning, an estate planning lawyer in King of Prussia, PA can help guide you in the right direction. They will listen to your concerns and advise you of your best options. Contact a law firm today to schedule a consultation and find out how they can help.

Thanks to Klenk Law for their insight into estate planning and elderly law.



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