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Do filial responsibility laws make you responsible for a parent's final long-term care bill? - II

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Yesterday, we discussed how many adult children with an elderly parent receiving some form of long-term care naturally assume that any balance for these services following their death will either pass with them or be covered by insurance in one form or another.  


To that end, we also started discussing filial responsibility laws, which essentially declare that financially solvent family members must provide support to indigent family members, and how an increasing number of adult children are starting to see attempts by nursing homes and long-term care facilities to hold them liable for the debts of a deceased parent under these laws. We'll continue this discussion in today's post.

How concerned should adult children be about this phenomenon?

According to experts, while the law is still developing in relation to this topic, it would appear that absent extremely imprudent Medicaid/Medicare planning or signing as a guarantor of expenses, adult children likely don't have to lose too much sleep over this phenomenon.

Indeed, it's important to note that while the California Family Code does indeed dictate that children are financially responsible for the care of their parents, the California Welfare and Institutions Code nevertheless undermines this financial responsibility to a considerable degree.

Specifically, it dictates in part that "no relative shall be held legally liable to support or contribute to the support of any applicant for or recipient of aid ..." such as Med-Cal or other public assistance.

Given this reality and the sheer number of seniors who apply for some manner of public benefits in the Golden State, it's hard to envision a scenario in which adult children would be held liable under the filial responsibility law.

What can adult children do to protect themselves?

Even if the odds of being held liable under filial responsibility laws seem slim, it's understandable that both adult children and their senior parents would nevertheless want to do everything in their power to eliminate this possibility.

According to experts, they should have a discussion ahead of time about how long-term care costs will be subsidized and take the necessary steps.

This could include meeting with a legal professional to undertake Medicaid/Medicare planning, meeting with a financial professional to ensure sufficient assets are bookmarked for this purpose, and/or securing some manner of long-term care policy (if possible).

They also suggest reading the fine print of any contract supplied by a nursing home or long-term care facility ahead of time to look for any provisions seeking to designate a third-party financial guarantor. Indeed, federal law prohibits such third-party guarantees as a condition of admission.

Source: NASDAQ, "Can you be held responsible for your parents' long-term-care costs?" December 22, 2016

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