Most people don’t realize the high cost of nursing home care until an aging parent’s health declines to the point that they need to move into one. As a Manhattan Beach elder law attorney, I can’t stress enough that this is a really bad time to learn that your family could need to come up with almost $100,000 per year for a room that is not covered by Medicare or private health insurance.
Considering the astronomical costs, it’s easy to see how a nursing home stay can deplete your parent’s assets seemingly overnight. So the obvious question is, “What happens when their money is gone?”
In some cases, government programs such as Medi-Cal will pay. That’s provided that your parent’s facility even accepts Medi-Cal, or has an available “Medi-Cal bed” when their money runs out.
However, more recently, nursing homes are turning to Filial Responsibility laws which force children to pay their parents’ nursing home bills. Such laws exist in 30 states and have been on the books for years, but rarely enforced—until now.
Filial responsibility laws state that adult children of a destitute parent have a legal obligation to pay for the necessities of the parent if they are unable to pay for themselves. In these cases, the courts do not need to divide the liability evenly between children but may choose to sue the child who has the greatest ability to pay the debt.
Consider a recent Pennsylvania case where an adult son was sued because his elderly mother left the country while still owing $93,000 to her nursing home. The mother had actually filed an application for Medi-Cal to help cover the costs, but the application had not yet been approved at the time the nursing home demanded payment. The son argued that he should not be responsible for the debt, especially since he didn’t sign the admission form or any other nursing home documents to begin with–but his responsibility to pay the entire bill was still upheld under such laws.
Our Manhattan Beach elder law attorneys never want to see this happen to local families. Therefore, to protect against the enforcement of filial responsibility laws, we encourage all seniors to prepare a comprehensive estate and long-term care plan so that if a nursing home is needed, the assets of the senior are protected. And, such a plan will also help ensure that the cost of nursing home care cannot be passed down to adult children when the parent can no longer pay or passes away.
Long-term care planning and asset protection laws can be complex, so be sure to meet with an experienced elder law attorney when creating your plan. If you’d like to meet with one of our Manhattan Beach elder law attorneys for help getting started, feel free to contact us at (310) 782-6322.