An adult child can be held responsible for providing their parents with financial support, especially if their parents are impoverished or indigent. This duty that the adult child has towards their parents is known as filial responsibility. Defined by both state laws and federal laws, filial responsibility is a legal term that makes the adult child financially responsible for their parents’ long-term care or medical bills.
In the United States, many of the states have filial responsibility laws or filial support laws in place. Depending on the state your parents’ reside in, you may be held responsible for their unpaid medical bills or nursing home facility costs. If their health care provider decides to sue you for the unpaid bills of your parents, then the court may decide that you are liable for the debts of your aging parents.
The responsibility of the adult child towards their parents will vary depending on the relevant state laws. Some states will impose limited filial responsibility on you, while other states will subject you to civil penalties or criminal penalties for not giving financial support to your parents.
If you are in the state of Arkansas, then your filial responsibility will only be towards your parents’ mental health care. In Nevada, you will only be held responsible for your parents’ medical bills if you have signed a note promising that you will pay for their care. The filial responsibility law in Connecticut will be applicable only if your parents are under the age of 65 – you will not be subjected to the laws if your parents are over this age.
The state of Georgia’s filial law merely states that an able adult child must support their impoverished parent, and Virginia’s laws allow you to no longer be responsible for long-term care costs if your parent is institutionalized for 60 months or more.
The other states that have filial responsibility laws in place include Alaska, California, Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Puerto Rico.
Federal law does not allow health care providers or nursing care facilities to deny someone admission based on a payment guarantee from a third party– that is, you. Even if you do not guarantee payment, they will not be able to evict your parent on the basis of the lack of guarantee. However, if your parent passes away, then their estate and settlements can be used towards reimbursement under the Medicaid Estate Recovery Program (MERP).
When it comes to filial responsibility law cases, the most well-known one is the case of Health Care & Retirement Corporation of America v. Pittas. An elderly patient did not pay her nursing home bill and then left the country. The nursing facility sued the woman’s adult son for the unpaid bills, and the court ruled that the son is liable for the debt incurred by his mother.
If the state that your parents live in has filial laws in place, then you will benefit by taking the following actions:
A permanent life insurance policy will allow your parents to add a long-term care rider or even sell their policy through a viatical settlement or life settlement. To learn how a settlement can help your parents with their medical bills, reach out to Uplife.
A: It depends. While there is help for the elderly in the form of Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid, your parents need to be eligible for those welfare programs. If they are ineligible and live in a state with filial responsibility laws, then you might end up paying for their medical care or long-term health care.
A: It depends on the state your parents live in. If their state has filial responsibility laws, you may get sued by their health care provider for their nursing home bills.
A: If the court decides that you are liable for your parent’s debt, you will be subjected to debt remedies - your wages might get garnished and your bank account may get seized. You may also face criminal penalties such as jail time.