Filial Responsibility: Are Children Responsible for Their Parents’ Long-Term Care?

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Safe Harbor Law Firm

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Aug 23, 2023

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Florida - Southwest

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Filial Responsibility Laws, also known as Filial Support Laws, are relatively unknown. More than half of US states (including Puerto Rico) could hold adult children financially responsible for their parents’ long-term care. If your parents live in one of the following states, you could be held legally responsible for their healthcare: Alaska, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia.

At one point, 45 US states had statutes that left adult children responsible for their parents’ nursing home care. After Medicaid was established in 1965, many states repealed these laws. The filial law system was adopted from England’s “Poor Laws”, a set of social measures meant to support low income citizens that could not afford care. Medicaid and Social Security helped to reduce the need for these laws.

While filial laws are rarely enforced, the rising cost of healthcare and longer life expectancies increase the likelihood of elderly individuals outliving their savings, which could rekindle these laws’ implementation. If your parents live in a state with filial responsibility laws and they start to accumulate healthcare bills they cannot afford, the provider may be within their rights to sue you for payment, and win. Some states can even extend criminal penalties to children who deny covering care. For example, according to North Carolina law, refusal to support your parents could result in a Class 2 misdemeanor that could earn you up to 120 days in jail.

If a parent becomes eligible for Medicaid, then the government will pay for nursing home care in most cases, and these laws become irrelevant. The Medicaid Estate Recovery Program (MERP) will sometimes try to recover the cost through the recipient’s estate after death. However, Medicaid does not require that adult children contribute directly to their parents’ care. In cases where the child and parent share assets, such as joint bank accounts or jointly owned real estate, the state may take action against these assets when trying to recover long-term care costs.

The best way to avoid issues with these laws is to get involved with your parents’ financial planning to ensure they have a plan to pay for long-term care themselves. An estate planning and elder law attorney can help create a plan to protect your parents’ assets while alleviating you of your filial responsibility. It is also important for families to consult with an attorney when applying for Medicaid or when beginning to plan Medicaid strategies, such as changing asset ownership or spending down assets.

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Have you considered how important it will be for you to help an elder loved one decide on the right nursing home? There are many factors to consider, such as price, location, and safety record. An elder loved one also has to be comfortable with the facility if they are going to live there. These big-picture concerns only scratch the surface. Let us take time to review five questions you should be asking when doing your due diligence on nursing home selection.1. Is the nursing home accredited? All skilled nursing home facilities must comply with federal regulations if they receive Medicare and Medicaid payments. States also require nursing home certifications. An organization called the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations further accredits nursing homes. While participation is voluntary, approval from the Joint Commission shows an extra level of transparency and care.2. What is the environment like? This question is more about observing the facility than it is pressing a nursing homes management for answers. For example, is the facility clean? Is it located in a safe neighborhood? What is the quality of the outside gardens and interior dcor? These are not superficial judgments, but important criteria for long-term residence.3. Who will provide medical care? When visiting a nursing home, make sure to meet with the facilitys top administrator and medical director. Also, ask to meet with staff members who would provide medical care to your aging loved one . Is there a doctor on-site? Can your loved one still see his or her doctors? If so, will the nursing home provide transportation?4. What is the turnover rate for nursing aides? Nursing aides are the backbone of nursing home care, and a high turnover rate can be a major red flag. It may also be important to gauge the reputation of the facilitys nursing staff, but you do not have to rely on the facility for the information. Contact an area nursing home ombudsman or the agency that regulates nursing homes in your state.5. What kind of recreational activities and social services are offered? Like young people, elder adults need social interaction and enjoyable activities to be fulfilled, healthy, and mentally stimulated. This also helps mitigate loneliness and social isolation. Nursing homes should provide a wide range of activities and social opportunities. If they do not, consider it a potential deal-breaker.Choosing the right nursing home can provide peace of mind during a period of uncertainty and loss of independence. There is more to consider, especially regarding contracts, insurance, and government benefits. You are not alone. Our office can help you navigate these challenges. Contact us today to schedule a meeting.

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Safe Harbor Law Firm

Elder Law 27821 South Tamiami Trail, Bonita Springs, Florida, 34134

At Safe Harbor Law Firm (formally known as Buff Law Firm PLLC), we focus on estate planning, elder law, and closely related practice areas. Our true focus, however, is helping families plan for and take control of their future. This can involve:Ensuring your assets will go to the people you want, when you want, in the manner you want after you pass awayPreparing for the possibility that you or your spouse will need expensive long-term careand helping you find ways to pay for itEnsuring that people you trust have the authority to make financial and medical decisions on your behalf in the event of incapacityProtecting your assets and those of your heirs against threats such as creditors, lawsuits, divorce, the high cost of long-term care, and moreGuiding your loved ones through the probate and/or trust administration processSafe Harbor Law Firm has helped families from all walks of life find solutions to challenges like these and many more. We welcome the opportunity to do the same for you. Ultimately, our goal is to help you enjoy the peace of mind that comes from having a plan in place for the future. We invite you to contact us for a personal meeting to discuss your particular needs and goals.EXPERT ATTORNEYSMeet the TeamPam Buff Baker, Esq.Attorney & FounderAbout Mrs. BakerPam Buff Baker, Esq., owner and founder of Safe Harbor Law Firm works closely with clients to meet their legal needs. In particular, Pam works in all areas of Estate Planning, Elder Law, Probate and Trust Administration. Pam was recognized by Naples Illustrated in 2021 and 2022 as a Top Lawyer in Trusts and Estates to include 2023. She is also a member of the nationwide organization, Lawyers with Purpose, an organization solely focused on helping seniors. Safe Harbor Law Firm serves clients at their offices in Naples and Bonita Springs.Pam graduated magna cum laude from Tulane University, having majored in chemical engineering. Since graduating from Tulane, Pam has worked in sales, marketing, and technical support for Eka Chemicals (part of Akzo Nobel), a company division that supplies water purification and treatment systems. Later, Pam moved to Naples, Florida. Since then, Pam graduated summa cum laude from Ave Maria School of Law, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review and a full academic scholarship recipient. During her time at Ave Maria School of Law, Pam worked in the legal department of Arthrex and interned for several local law firms. Pam is a champion golfer, having been a varsity player at Tulane, inducted into the Hall of Fame. She was an All-American golfer, three-time conference champion, conference player of the year, and student athlete of the year. When she has free time, Pam likes to play golf and go to the beach and pool with her family, including her three children ages 4, 14, and 16. Originally from the Chicago area, Pam has lived year-round in Naples, Florida since 2005.Helen Mena, Esq.AttorneyThomas Tom LaTorre, Esq.AttorneyBrittany Cocchieri, Esq.AttorneyKatherine ReillyMarketing DirectorBryan D. WoulasDirector of OperationsAndy C. BakerFirm AdministratorKelly FinckProbate and Estate Planning Legal AssistantJessica MaristanyClient Services CoordinatorBreanna CanningFunding and Medicaid ParalegalRuth DavisClient Service CoordinatorJacqui CalmaAdministrative AssistantGabby AngExecutive AssistantMackenzie McTeviaClient Services Coordinator