In most cases, you would not be held responsible for your parent’s nursing home bills, but there are exceptions. When you are agreeing to act as a responsible party, you may have certain contractual obligations. The contract may state that you must take reasonable actions on behalf of your parent to make sure that the bills are paid.
A couple of years ago a Connecticut court found in favor of a nursing home that was seeking satisfaction from the child of a resident. The nursing home contended that the child did not honor her contractual obligation to make sure that the nursing homes got paid.
The individual in question, Judy Andrien, signed a contract that required her to use her mother’s resources to pay any unpaid nursing home bills that may exist, and she was further required to do everything possible to obtain Medicaid coverage for her mother. Medicare will not pay for long-term care, but Medicaid will pay if you can qualify.
Laws prohibit a nursing home from requiring a third-party guarantee as a condition of admittance, but the court found that there is no law that prohibits a responsible relative from voluntarily entering into an agreement.
Any time you are entering into a legally binding contract that you may not fully understand, you should review the document with a licensed elder law attorney.
Filial Support Laws
The case cited in the previous section revolves around voluntarily entering into a contractual agreement. There is another relatively recent development that is relevant here. Many states in the union have filial support laws on the books, though they have been rarely used. These laws require children to take care of their parents if the parents become unable to take care of themselves.
A filial support law was used by a nursing home to seek satisfaction from the son of a resident in the state of Pennsylvania. This case also played itself out in 2012. An appeals court upheld a lower court judgment and ordered John Pittas to pay almost $93,000 in unpaid nursing home bills.
Our firm practices in the state of Iowa. There are filial support laws on the books in Iowa although rarely if ever enforced at this point.
Food for Thought
These cases certainly provide food for thought. The obligation to pay nursing home bills accumulated by a parent is the exception rather than the rule, but you certainly have to be vigilant when you are signing on the dotted line.
If you would like to learn more about your obligations as a child who is admitting a parent into a nursing home, feel free to contact us to request a free consultation.
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