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Filial Support Laws: Picking Up the Tab for Mom and Dad

America is facing a long-term care crisis.  Statistics show that the amount of time elderly people are spending in nursing homes increases each year. This is a result of both the baby boomer generation, as well as advances in modern medicine. Without proper estate planning, children may be the ones left picking up the tab for their parent’s long-term care debt.

Filial support laws have reemerged in the news after a Pennsylvania appeals court found a son liable for his mother’s $93,000 nursing home bill.  The court’s decision in Health Care & Retirement Corporation of America v. Pittas sets a new precedent.  Care facilities may add filial support laws back into their arsenal as a way to ensure payment.

Filial support laws hold that adult children will be legally responsible for caring for indigent parents. However, these laws were rarely enforced in the past.  The resurgence in their use has a lot to do with recent Medicaid changes.

The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 made it more difficult for seniors to transfer assets before qualifying for Medicaid.  Other changes in the health care landscape have reduced the resources available for quality treatment and care.   This may include federal and state reduction in rates.

Previously, almost every state had filial support laws.   In the 1960’s, many states repealed these laws after the creation of Medicare and Medicaid.  Around 30 states currently have filial support laws, including Maryland and Pennsylvania.  These laws vary and can be overridden by other statutes.

Filial support laws may continue to gain traction as the country faces a growing elderly population, rising long-term care costs, and shrinking government budgets.  Until a solution for long-term care arises, filial support laws highlight the importance of estate planning for both parents and their children.

For more information, contact Mariela D’Alessio at Bodie.