Depending on one's state of residence, children may be financially liable for their parents' long-term care bills. Known as filial responsibility laws, these laws state that children can be held legally responsible for long-term care expenses if their parents are indigent and unable to pay for care. Though there are only 30 states in the country with laws like this on the books, Pennsylvania is one of them. A case a few years ago enforced the filial support laws and found the defendant son was liable for his mother's care to the tune of $93,000.
Until recently, these laws were largely ignored. But, the court decision in Pennsylvania demonstrates there is a movement to enforce them. Previously, adult children were only found liable if there was fraudulent activity, such as children transferring parents' assets to avoid paying for care. Now, though, the courts have started holding children accountable even without evidence of wrongdoing because long term care costs are on the rise. Healthcare providers are more incentivized to use the courts to compel children to help their parents financially.
Some states impose criminal liability, whereas Pennsylvanian courts have only gone as far as to impose financial responsibility. However, it is important to keep in mind that courts must find that the parent is either indigent or is unable to provide for their own support. Additionally, there are defenses to filial support obligations, such as the child's inability to pay for such care or desertion of the child during minority.
Why is it important to know about filial support laws now? Engaging in timely planning that factors in how one would pay for long-term care can be one-way that parents can ensure that their children are not unduly burdened in the long-run. An elder law attorney can help you understand how the filial support laws may affect you and your family.