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AM I MY PARENT’S KEEPER? Adult children sometimes personally liable for nursing home bill of parent

Federal laws prevent a nursing home from requiring a third party (often a child or other family member of resident) to be held personally liable as a condition for admission – but nursing homes often say they will not make changes to its admissions contract which require a third party to be a “responsible party” and some contracts even require the third party to guarantee payment. The definitions of “responsible party” in admissions contracts vary. Although the resident should pay with the resident’s funds and the third party shouldn’t be required to guarantee payment, the “responsible party” may be required to apply for Medicaid or other public benefits (which helps pay for cost of care) if the resident’s funds are exhausted. A failure to make such application could result in the nursing home bringing a lawsuit against the responsible party (child of the resident). The responsible party also could be liable if they misused the resident’s funds.

Furthermore, many states have filial responsibility laws which requires a child to provide for the housing, medical needs, food and clothing for indigent parents. Thankfully, Texas does not have any filial responsibility.

It should also be mentioned that a recent Connecticut court decision ruled that a daughter was held personally liable for her mother’s assisted living (not nursing home) care. However, a New Jersey court ruled that the daughter of a New Jersey nursing home resident was not held personally liable for her father’s care even though the admissions contract stated she would guarantee payment. The court’s decision was based on federal and state law which prohibits such liability. The daughter’s counter-suit for fraud against the nursing home was recently settled. As a result, it is important to read nursing home admission contracts since some nursing facilities require “guarantees” of a third party. However, even if the contract does not have such provision, it is best to know if you (or to what extent) are your parent’s keeper.

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