Imagine opening the mail one day and finding an invoice from a nursing home nearly 2,000 miles away stating you owe $90,000 to cover the cost of your elderly mother’s recent stay. It could happen.
Most consumers are unaware of “filial responsibility laws” because up until now, most states have not been enforcing them. But in light of escalating health care costs, increased life spans, and drastic cuts in Medicaid funding to the states, the conditions are ripe for stronger enforcement of filial responsibility laws that are currently on the books in 30 states.
The proactive enforcement of filial laws could have catastrophic consequences on family members who thought the government would step in, if necessary, to pay for their elderly parents’ long-term care in a nursing home. So it’s important to understand your risks and to have a plan in place.
What are filial responsibility laws?
Filial responsibility laws are laws that impose a duty upon third parties, (usually the adult children), for the support of their impoverished parents or other relatives. Such regulations may be enforced by governmental or private entities and may be at the state or national level. While most filial responsibility laws involve civil enforcement, some include criminal penalties for adult children or close relatives who fail to provide for family members when challenged to do so.
Specifically, filial laws obligate adult children to pay for their indigent parents’/relatives’ food, clothing, shelter and medical needs. Should the children fail to provide adequately, filial laws allow nursing homes and government agencies to bring legal action to recover the cost of caring for the parents.
Several court cases in Pennsylvania illustrate the power of filial responsibility laws. In Health Care & Retirement Corp. of America v. Pittas, a man was ordered to pay $93,000 to cover his mother’s outstanding debt to a nursing home. In another PA court case, Eori v. Eori, the court determined that each of the two siblings had a responsibility to support their ailing mother who required in-home care financially.
Given the nation’s aging population along with studies indicating that most are financially ill-prepared as it relates to long-term care planning, it’s no surprise that financial professionals and political leaders are cautioning consumers as it relates to the increased enforcement of these laws.
Do you live in a state with a filial responsibility law?
In an article published in 2002 by the American Bar Association titled “Filial Responsibility: Can the Legal Duty to Support Our Parents Be Effectively Enforced?”, the author studied all of the state laws and found that most states agree that children must provide necessities for parents who cannot do so for themselves. Currently, the following 30 states and Puerto Rico have filial responsibility laws:
Alaska, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia.
What’s the risk or likelihood?
Data shows that 79 percent of women and 68 percent of men will require long-term care at some point in their lives. Women typically require an average of 3.7 years of long-term care, while men need an average of 2.2 years.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as of 2010, it cost $205 per day or $6,235 a month for a semi-private room in a nursing home. But according to a 2017 study by Genworth Financial Inc., the national median monthly cost for a semi-private room in a nursing home has now risen to $7,100. Based on these numbers, an average stay of 3.7 years for an elderly woman would cost approximately $315,240.
How should you plan for the possibilities?
If you have aging parents, sit down and ask them whether they have taken steps to plan for their long-term care. If not, help them seek the services of a financial professional who can guide them through all the options. Long-term care insurance can be costly, but there may be other solutions that the financial planner can explore with you and your parents.
If your parents have an unwanted life insurance policy, you may want to explore whether the cash proceeds from a life settlement would be an option to help fund long-term care. For more information about how a life settlement can be a solution to help pay for long-term care, read this blog article on life settlements and long-term care published by Trust Life Settlements.
Feel free to contact us at 800-216-2513 if you questions about this article or would like to determine whether you or your loved one qualifies for a life settlement.