You might want to consider this option if you live in a state that has a “filial responsibility law”. There are 29 states that have laws in various forms that can hold adult children financially responsible for their parents’ necessities of life when the parents cannot pay. These laws have rarely been enforced but a recent court ruling in Pennsylvania may change all that.
In Health Care & Retirement Corporation of America v. Pittas (Pa. Super. Ct., No. 536 EDA 2011, May 7, 2012), the Pennsylvania Superior Court upheld a lower court decision which made the adult son responsible for his mother’s $93,000 nursing home bill. The court ruled that the state did not have to consider the woman’s other possible sources of payment, including a husband and two other adult children. The nursing home had adequately met its burden of proof that this particular son had the means to pay the $93,000 bill and was responsible for paying it.
This ruling doesn’t necessarily mean there will be an increase of cases like this where adult children are being sued for their parents’ nursing care. In most states with filial laws, your parent must be indigent before the court will hold the family responsible for expenses. Courts will also take into consideration whether you have the means to pay. An adult child usually won’t be impoverished to pay for their parent’s care. Likewise, parents who are putting their own children through college may be held exempt.
However, most states are struggling with Medicaid costs, and the issue should not be ignored. One possible solution is to buy long-term care insurance for your parents. Group insurance through some employers offer multi-life packages that allow the employee to cover their spouse and even parents of both the employee and their spouse. This form of coverage is usually offered with discounts, typically of 5-to-10 percent, when insuring multiple lives. This may be a good option to make sure your parents get adequate long-term care, without being stuck with the bill unexpectedly.