Could You Be Responsible for Your Parents Medical Debt?

Yes, it’s called “Filial Responsibility!”  Filial (or parental) responsibility laws obligate adult children to pay for their “indigent” parents’ food, clothing, shelter, and medical needs. If or when you fail to do so, nursing homes, hospitals, and other creditors can file lawsuits against the adult children to recover the cost of caring for the parents. If the court awards a judgment, some states will use the judgment to garnish your wages or place liens against your property. The judgment will appear as an unpaid debt on your credit report. Yet, in some states, adult children can even go to jail if they fail to provide filial support. Approximately, half of the states with filial responsibility laws impose criminal penalties if you fail to provide financially for your parent’s care. It’s legally well established that parents have a responsibility to financially support their children. In approximately half of all states, the reverse is true as well – adult children have a legal responsibility to support their parents when their parents don’t have sufficient income to take care of themselves. Some states even have pushed it to further to be responsible to “relatives” and not just parents. OMG!!!!

Ok, I know what you’re saying to this… “Well, isn’t that what Medicaid is for?” Yes, Medicaid will cover a parent’s care once the parent has depleted savings and other resources. Just to be deemed eligible for Medicaid takes an act of Congress because Medicaid laws are the most complex laws in existence, with eight separate bodies of law dealing with Medicaid and Medicaid eligibility.

Here are some of the following exemptions to this law:

  • Not every state has filial support laws (yet over half of the states do);
  • “Clean hands” rule (if you were abused or abandoned as a child by the parent);
  • Parent or relative must be deemed “indigent!”;
  • Adult children must have the ability to pay; and
  • Some states have repealed their filial support law as Medicaid has taken a higher coverage in paying the expenses.

Before you find yourself in court defending yourself against such a claim, speak with an elder care attorney in your state to find out how vulnerable you are to this law. You may live in a jurisdiction that doesn’t recognize filial responsibility. However, if you do, a lawyer can help you make sure your parent is provided for in the event he/she needs costly, long-term care, such as by helping he/her qualify for Medicaid.  Children with elderly parents need to be proactive regarding how their parents are financing their long-term care. 

DON’T FALL VICTIM TO ANY FILIAL (or parental) SUPPORT by not being prepared!! Find out if your state supports filial responsibility….

*Disclaimer: The author of this blog post is not an attorney and this blog post is not intended as legal advice and should not be relied upon without consulting legal counsel!

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email