Have you considered the fact that the cost of healthcare, in general, and long-term care, in particular, can reach exorbitant levels in the United States? Older people frequently purchase long-term care insurance and save for the cost of long-term care. A lesser discussed issue, however, is whether adult children can be held legally responsible for their parent’s nursing home bill.

Some states have a filial responsibility law, which obligates adult children to cover the cost of their indigent parent’s food, clothing, shelter and medical expenses. Via this law, nursing homes and government agencies can bring legal action to recover the cost of a nursing home bill. While nursing homes do not elect to do this often, it can be utilized as a collection tactic, resulting in an enforceable judgment. With the cost of nursing home care, adult children should not take this risk lightly. 

Given their potential liability, adult children should be knowledgeable of their parent’s resources to cover long-term care. This includes their parent’s eligibility for government programs, such as Medicaid, to cover the cost of a nursing home bill. They may also need to assist their parent in applying for these programs. Children should inquire about long-term care policies and obtain copies of the policies. If a parent possesses the financial means to pay for long-term care, their adult children should assure the parent has a trust, wherein the trustee is authorized to make payments. As an alternative, the parent can designate an adult child as his or her durable power of attorney, which allows them access to their parent’s accounts to make payments and manage his or her finances should he or she become unexpectedly incapacitated. 

In summary, it can be key to take a proactive, rather than a reactive, approach to filial responsibility laws. Once the adult child has had a conversation with his or her parents regarding their plans for covering the cost of a nursing home, it may be prudent to speak with a qualified elder law attorney, who can assist in explaining the filial responsibility laws in the state and explore options to cover the cost of a nursing home for the parents, should one be indicated. While the discussion of a parent requiring a nursing home is a difficult one, being prepared will reduce the stress on all involved. 

For further assistance with long-term care planning and related legal issues, please contact our office to schedule an appointment.