Do you have to Pay for Parents’ care?

ltc-mom-sonI get asked this a lot.

If my Mom (Dad) goes into the nursing home, do I have to pay for her/his long term care?

My answer is: maybe….

30 of the 52 states in the USA have some form of “filial responsibility” laws on the books. “Filial responsibility” is a fancy term meaning you are responsible for your parent’s upkeep.

See this article for a list of states (it may not be current – check with your own state to verify).

If your parent(s) lives in one of these states and racks up a large long term care bill, there is potential that you could be sued by the care provider or by the state itself to be partially to fully responsible for your parent’s bill. This is particularly of some concern to folks who have higher incomes because courts are usually instructed to determine financial responsibility based on the child’s ability to pay: so if you make good money, they are more likely to hold you responsible than say your sibling who makes very little money.

Having said all of that, there are comparatively few cases of children being held responsible for the parent’s well being and upkeep. Forbes Magazine had a widely touted story not too long about a son who was made to pay. But so far this appears to be the exception rather than the rule.

Nevertheless, as Boomers age and become more in need of expensive medical care and long term care services, the budget of each state will become more burdened with poverty stricken seniors who cannot afford to pay for their care. As states feel that pinch, they may indeed break out these old laws to pursue some kind of financial recovery from more affluent children.

Avoid Paying Out-of-Pocket for Long Term Care

  1. If you have an aging parent who does not have long term care insurance, it is wise to either help them pay for it (it is always cheaper to pay for insurance than to pay for care!), or help them get a proper estate plan in place, or both.
  2. Don’t leave your own children vulnerable. The high cost of medical care and long term care are the number one and number two items that can derail a retirement plan. These two – more than any other risk – are the two that you need to have some strategy for managing lest they bankrupt you and leave your children “holding the bag” on your care debt.

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