Even though federal law does not mandate that children pay for their parents' long-term care costs, state laws are proving otherwise. Virginia readers may be surprised to learn that many adult children with plenty of financial responsibilities of their own may have to take on their parents' bills as well. If Medicaid will not pay a patient's nursing home bill, state filial support laws allow the facility to contact the person's adult children to get the bill paid. In some cases, facilities are even going after more distant relatives, such as nieces and nephews.
Under federal law, if a patient does not pay a bill in full, only the patient's spouse can be held responsible for their long-term care expenses. However, 29 states have filial support laws in place, which require that children pay for their parents' long-term care expenses. In cases where a person has no children, or their children cannot afford to pay these bills, then facilities may be able to pursue a person's siblings, or other next of kin to secure payment. This demonstrates why estate planning is important for senior citizens.
Adult children should have a discussion with their parents about how their parents plan to pay for long-term care expenses. Long-term care insurance is available to cover these kinds of costs. In addition, senior citizens can choose to set aside funds in a trust to be used for nursing home expenses if insurance does not fully cover these costs. Financial planning can also provide other options for aging adults.
Having to pay their parents' bills in addition to their own imposes a financial burden on adult children, especially if they do not have jobs, which is sometimes the case in the current economy. Although the laws may seem unfair, they can also have a positive impact by spurring more baby boomers to have frank discussions with their parents about financial planning for long-term care.
Source: Forbes, "New Financial Burden For Boomers: Forced To Pay Parents' Long-Term-Care Costs," Eve Kaplan, Aug. 13, 2012