Unpdaid long-term care bills are increasing and becoming more of a problem in many states. All 50 States have statutes that obligate adults to care for children or other family members; if your parent lives in one of 29 states, you could be held responsible for your parents unpaid long-term care bills. What? How could this be? are the typical reactions to many living in these unfortunate states.
Katherine Pearson at Penn State Law School has written a paper on Fillal Support Laws and the enforcement Practices for laws requiring adult children to pay for indigent parents.
Her abstract states:
Family responsibility and support laws have a long but mixed history. When first enacted, policy makers used such laws to declare an official policy that family members should support each other, rather than draw upon public resources. This article tracks modern developments with filial support laws that purport to obligate adult children to financially assist their parents, if indigent or needy. The author diagrams filial support laws that have survived in the 21st Century and compares core components in the United States (including Puerto Rico) and post-Soviet Union Ukraine. While the laws are often similar in wording and declared intent, this article demonstrates that enforcement practices are quite different among the two countries, even as both countries struggle with aging populations and recession. In addition, the author analyzes a potentially disturbing trend emerging in at least two U.S. states, most significantly Pennsylvania, where filial support laws are now a primary collection tool for nursing homes, with decisions against adult children running to thousands of dollars in retroactive “support.” The article closes with concerns for policy makers in any state or country considering filial support as an alternative or supplement to public funding for long-term care or health care for the elderly.
What is interesting is that some states like NY have cases where they were able to go after children in other states to collect the funds. I can see how a state can enforce laws against its residents or those domiciled in that state but the concept of creating a law in one state that creates an obligation on adult children living in another state is beyond logical.
If your parent’s are alive and going to receive care from a nursing home in one of the following 29 states, you should talk with an estate planning professional to determine what your risk of liability is.
Alaska, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire , New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia .
NOTE: There are no laws in Florida that would require such support but we often see individuals who check their parents into nursing homes or hospitals who sign admission papers who unnecessarily obligate themselves financially. You may want to discuss how to limit such financial obligations by use of a power of attorney.