If Your Parents Go into a Nursing Home Are You at Risk?

As our society is living longer as a whole, more and more parents are winding up in nursing homes.

So what happens if your parents run up a huge nursing home bill and then die?

Are you responsible for your parents bills?

If you live in Pennsylvania the answer may be yes.

Nursing homes have a legitimate right to be paid for caring for individuals who reside there.

No one is questioning that.

But what if the children refuse to pay the parent’s bill?

Legally what can nursing homes do to force payment?

Well in Pennsylvania they can use an old law that is still on the books to force payment.

The law dates back to the 16th century believe it or not.

It is known as the Filial Support law.

It basically says that a spouse or child is legally responsible to pay for bills their spouse or parent incur.

Pennsylvania is one of the few states that allows enforcement of the ancient law.

Pittsburgh wrongful death medical malpractice, slip and fall, car accident and criminal defense attorney Bernie Tully is the first to say this is a complicated issue.

However it does seem pretty unfair to force the children of the parent to pay up.

And it is also unfair for the nursing homes to get stuck with these unpaid bills.

Pittsburgh wrongful death, medical malpractice, slip and fall, car accident and criminal defense attorney Bernie Tully suggests this solution to the issue: have the children of the parent sign a contract with the nursing home saying that if the bill is unpaid that they agree to be responsible for payment of the bill.

That way, the children would at least know going in what they are on the hook for.

And they would have to agree to it from the beginning.

What do you think about this issue?


Check out this article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

A law dating to 16th-century English Poor Laws is being used increasingly in Pennsylvania to force adult children to pay for their parents’ nursing home care regardless of their personal relationship.

Many states have repealed what is known as the filial (family) support law, which generally holds that a spouse, child or parent of an impoverished person has a responsibility to care for or financially assist them.

It remains on the books in 29 states, but most don’t enforce it.

Among the exceptions is Pennsylvania. Although not widely used, court rulings on the law have set precedent for nursing homes and/or patients’ family members to sue other relatives for payment.

“The biggest problem with the approach that Pennsylvania takes is that no one knows about the law,” said Katherine Pearson, a law professor at Penn State University’s Dickinson School of Law in Carlisle. “The people who are using it are not family members, but commercial entities. And the claims come after a large debt was accumulated.

“It’s used too often as an after-the-fact, ‘gotcha’ mechanism.”

What do you think about all this?

Thanks for reading.

Bernie the Attorney