Everyone knows that parents have an obligation to support their children. But, did you know that many states also require adult children to support their parents under some circumstances? While many of these states do not enforce their “filial support” laws, one state, Pennsylvania, is starting to use the law as a source to collect on unpaid care bills, or force adult children into completing their elderly parents’ Medicaid applications. The economy is stretched so thin, everyone is scrambling to find ways to make money, or recover unpaid debts. The courts merely deem an adult child to have the ability to pay the bill.
Most families with elderly parents do not think about the fact that they could be held responsible for their parents’ nursing home care bills. This is a major reason why, when engaging in estate planning, families need to be told about this filial support requirement. In some states, adult children could be held responsible for their parents’ unpaid long-term care invoices in some circumstances. This is all the more reason for the client to consider long-term care insurance and Medicaid planning.
Consider the case of a nursing home in Allentown, PA, that sued the adult son of a patient who was in its care for six months. The unpaid bill was $92,943. A panel of judges said the facility could collect it from the patient’s son. This would be the kind of news that would motivate other nursing homes in other states to use their filial support laws.
Clients with elderly parents need to be aware of this new trend, and take that as a cue to ensure their parents are taken care of. At a minimum, the client should plan to avoid the circumstances triggering the filial support requirements in their state.
Stephen C. Hartnett, J.D., LL.M.
Associate Director of Education
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (800) 846-1555
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