Do you have parents who may need a California nursing home in the future? Did you know that  children may need to pay an aging California parent’s nursing home bill?  Everyone, of course, agrees with the idea of parents being held legally responsible for the action and debts of their minor children.

However, when it comes to long-term care will adult children have to help pay?  

First, you may not know, but almost half of the states in the U.S. have filial responsibility laws, which can create a legal obligation of adult children for their parents. Right now not much attention is paid to these laws, but it could be that when a parent is placed in a nursing home these laws may allow some potential to go after adult children. At present, nursing homes utilizing filial responsibility laws to force adult children to pay the nursing home bills of their parents is the exception, rather than the norm. Be aware, though, that these laws remain on the books in many states.

With all this being stated, would adult children be responsible for anything else? Possibly, filial responsibility laws may obligate adult children to cover the cost of their parents’ food, clothing, shelter and medical expenses when their parents cannot afford to do so. In fact, some states have seen these laws applied in a novel way to obtain judgments against adult children for the bills incurred by their parents in a nursing home. Because of the extremely high cost of nursing homes, this may be a legal risk adult children cannot afford to ignore. 

So, what can adult children do? Start by having a critical discussion with your parents regarding their ability to afford a nursing home. You need to find out whether your parents have long-term care insurance, it may be something they elected to obtain as an employment benefit. If they do have this insurance, it is important for you, as their adult child, to have a copy of the policy. Why? Because if your parent suffered a stroke and experienced loss of mental capacity, there may be a real possibility of no one ever learning about their long-term care policy. Another plan they may have which you may find out in your discussion with your parents is that they have been putting money aside to cover a nursing home. If this is the case, you, as the adult child, should have a way to access these funds, perhaps via a durable power of attorney or a trust. 

However, what happens if your parents do not have insurance or the means to cover a nursing home? Then it may be necessary to find out whether they have Medi-Cal or what Medi-Cal planning needs to be done in order to make your parents Medi-Cal eligible. Medi-Cal would go towards covering the nursing home expenses. Through all this we would highly recommend that you and your parents schedule a meeting with an experienced California elder law attorney as soon as possible.

We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. Do you have questions? We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. Our office is here for you and your loved ones. Please call us to schedule a meeting time.