For children with elderly parents residing in a nursing home or extended care facility, you may be surprised to know that in some states and in some situations, you could potentially be required to pay for your parents nursing home expenses.
About 30 states, including California, have laws that impose some kind of a duty for children to pay for their parent’s nursing home expenses if the parent is indigent and if the child has funds. In about 20 of the states with these “filial responsibility” laws, a nursing home can sue an adult child for the unpaid expenses the elderly parent incurs. Additionally, some states also impose criminal sanctions against an adult child who fails to pay. In some situations an adult who fails to pay may face a fine or even jail time.
However, if an elderly parent is unable to pay for extended care costs, the parent is usually eligible for Medicaid (known as Medi-Cal in California). In this situation, federal law prohibits anyone from suing a child for their parents long-term care expenses if the parent has applied for Medicaid coverage.
Though filial responsibility laws exist in the majority of states, they are not often used or enforced. This may change as more and more Americans reached the age of 65 and have expenses associated with extended care facilities. In an effort to recover costs, these facilities may be more likely to use filial responsibility laws to seek payment from adult children of elderly parents.
Is there anything that can be done to prevent this? Yes, a well-constructed comprehensive estate plan prepared by an experienced and qualified estate planning and elder law attorney can go along way to assist in helping needy persons obtain valuable public benefits.