Will you Be Responsible For Your Parents Nursing Home Bill?

Everyone with elderly parents visualizes the day their
parents become ill and need extended care – from a lengthy hospital stay to
24/7 nursing home care. Parental support laws, of "filial support"
may leave the children of these patients with a hefty bill – in the event they
should pass away.

Many children of elderly parents fear being stuck with an
astronomical bill should their parents need long-term health care of 24/7
nursing. The law currently on the books in 29 states and Puerto Rico allow
long-term care providers to pursue payment from a parent's adult children.

A professor of law at the Dickinson School of Law at Penn
State University, Katherine Pearson has found that long-term care providers are
taking advantage of such laws in at least two states: Pennsylvania and South
Dakota.

Pearson cites one high-profile case in Pennsylvania
involving expenses incurred by car accident victim Maryann Pittas. Pittas was a
patient in an Allentown nursing home for about six months before relocating to
Greece to live with her relatives. In the meantime, Pittas' son got stuck with
the bill for nearly $93,000.

The superior court ruled in favor of the nursing home in May
of the year, based on the son's ability to pay.

"By holding the son liable for a lump sum of close to
$93,000 in the Pittas case, the superior court appears to confirm a significant
tool for certain creditors of individuals who are unable to pay their debts
personally, permitting the filial support statute to be applied retroactively
to substantial accrued debt, without requiring evidence of fault on the part of
the targeted family member," according to Pearson's study.

According to Pearson's research, parental support laws date
back to colonial times and even earlier. Such laws were established to make
sure family members relied on one another rather than turning to public
resources for help.

As many as 45 states at one time had these laws, but many
states repealed them as Medicaid began to take on a greater role in providing
relief to the poor.

However, new restrictions have been placed on Medicaid,
which traditionally has paid a large percentage of long-term care costs in the
United States. For example, the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 increases
penalties on people who transfer assets for less than market value prior to
applying for Medicaid.

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