Consumer Voice Updates on Filial Responsibility Laws

Few seniors have the resources to pay for long-term skilled nursing home stays. As we have previously discussed, New York maintains one of the highest average cost per day rates at these facilities. For most families, those costs are far more than they are able to pay from their own income and savings. That is one reason why the elder law attorneys at our firm urge consideration of long-term care insurance (LTCI). However, LTCI premiums remain too high for many, and so Medicaid is generally used to provide for necessary care.

Some facilities are actually resorting to another option to ensure they are paid for providing care–getting adult children to foot the bill. Recently, the Consumer Voice–one of the nation’s leading nursing home resident advocacy groups–published information on the use of filial responsibility laws. While enforcement of rules based on these statutes remains relatively rare, some argue that more and more facilities will take a look at pursuing adult children to increase payments.

Local residents should know that New York currently does not have a filial responsibility law on the books. Some neighboring states do have these rules however, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and others. Those with loved ones in facilities in one of those states need to be aware of the possibility of a facility filing suit against an adult child for unpaid nursing home bills.

Each state statute has slightly different rules regarding who exactly can be held accountable and what the nursing home must show in order to recover. In most cases, for example, the long-term care facility must explicitly show that the adult child has the means to provide the necessary financial support. It makes little sense for a court to force an adult child to pay bills for a parent when doing so will make the child destitute.

The most high-profile recent case on this matter came out of Pennsylvania, where a court ordered an adult son to foot a $93,000 nursing home bill. Uniquely, the court determined that it did not matter whether he had any siblings or even whether a Medicaid application was pending. In other words, it was quite an expansive ruling that, if upheld on appeal, suggests that nursing homes have significant leeway in pursuing adult children for payment if they choose.

The bottom line is that it is always prudent to act as early as possible to account for these expenses. There is never a risk of having to deal with these complex legal issues if a plan in place to ensure that resources exist to pay for senior care. For assistance making these plans anywhere in New York, please take a moment to reach out to our elder law attorneys to see how we can help.

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