Are Adult Children Legally Responsible for Parents' Long Term Costs?

Carole Larkin - February 11, 2013 09:30 AM

Recently a businessman I know forwarded me a link to a Wall Street Journal article by Kelly Green written on June 22nd 2012. Although I know his intent was to point out the fact that people need long term care insurance, I was nevertheless nonplussed by what I was reading in the article.

The article pointed out that 29 states have “filial support” laws that could be used to go after adult children wallets to pay for their parents unpaid longterm care bills. Those states are: Alaska, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia. Note that only one state, Pennsylvania, routinely allows nursing homes to threaten families into either paying their parents nursing home bills or to complete Medicaid applications for their parents so that the state can pay the nursing home bills.

Under Pennsylvania’s filial support law, the parents have to be considered ”indigent” and the children have  to have the means to pay the bill. Neither threshold is specifically defined, which give courts a lot of leeway.” says Green. One case “Pittas vs HCR Manorcare has gone thru State Court and an appellate panel and both have found for the facility. An application for a reargument in front of the full state appeals court is pending. This is worrisome because Pennsylvania, like a number of the other states listed doesn’t require lack of cooperation or asset shielding on the children’s parts. The simply have to be deemed by a judge to have the means to be able to pay the parent’s bill. Green says that the key to this is not allowing a gap to form between private payments and Medicaid that later become the basis of a claim against children and other family members. She recommends hiring an elder law attorney who is familiar with the process of Medicaid application to be safe.

This gives a whole new meaning to reclaimed funds, doesn’t it? Scary, isn’t it?

Click here to read Carole Larkin’s blog, Beware of the Silent Threat! – A Look into Elder Abuse

Carole Larkin  MA, CMC, CAEd, DCP, QDCS, EICS is a nationally known expert in Alzheimer’s and related Dementias care. She is a Certified Geriatric Care Manager who specializes in helping families with Alzheimer’s and related dementias issues. She consults with families on the telephone and in person, on family problems related to the dementias. She trains caregivers in person and via video. One of her training videos is on You Tube. Other videos are on the videos page of her company’s website: Her contact information is on the website as well.

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