Will Your Children Be Expected to Pay Your Nursing Home Bills?


Are you a senior living in Florida? Right now, are you enjoying good health, mobility and financial stability? That is good news. Have you created a Florida estate plan, or updated your current plan? We ask these questions because everyone needs to be prepared in case of an accident, unexpected surgery, or diagnosis of a debilitating disease. If you suddenly required a nursing home, what would you do? Would you turn to your children and expect them to pay?

Let’s start with some of the options you have for paying for a nursing home. First, in Florida there is long-term care planning. We recommend you meet with your Florida estate planning and elder law attorney. He can help you be prepared for whatever life experiences come your way.  You can also investigate purchasing long-term care insurance. It may even be available as an employment benefit. Or you can begin immediately to start saving money to cover the cost a nursing home.

However, what about the option of your children paying? What happens if parents cannot pay their bills or pay for a nursing home, are the adult children responsible? Close to half of the states (Florida is not one of the states) in the U.S. have filial responsibility laws, which can create a legal obligation of adult children for their parents. Most of the time little attention is paid to these laws, but it may be that when a parent is placed in a nursing home these laws may have the potential to be used. Can filial responsibility laws make adult children legally responsible to pay the nursing home bill of their parents?  Could filial responsibility laws be used to obligate adult children to cover the cost of their parents’ food, clothing, shelter and medical expenses when the parents themselves cannot afford to do so? In recent years, 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. With the astronomical cost of nursing homes, this may be a legal risk adult children cannot afford to ignore.

Right now, you should begin to have an important discussion with your children about how you are trying to be prepared for the cost of a nursing home if you were to need one. If you have long-term care insurance, be sure your children have a copy of your long-term care policy. This is so that if you were to suffer a stroke or be in an accident and experience loss of mental capacity, your children will know and have a copy of your long-term care policy. If you have been saving money for a nursing home, be sure your adult children have a way to access these funds, usually via a durable power of attorney or a trust. Let your children know if you do not have these options for long-term care. If you do not, then you need to meet with your Florida estate planning and elder law attorney to find out what Medicaid planning can or should be done. Medicaid planning can be started in order to ensure Medicaid eligibility, should you need it, which would go towards covering nursing home expenses.

Our estate planning law firm takes a very different approach from what you might have come to expect. Our goal is to create lifelong relationships with each of our clients, to guide and manage your legacy for the rest of your life. Please contact our offices in Stuart and in Palm City to learn more.

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