More Filial Responsibility Cases are Ending Up in Court

Filial Responsibility Evan FarrFilial responsibility laws obligate adult children to pay for their indigent parents’ food, clothing, shelter and medical needs. When the children fail to do so, nursing homes and government agencies can bring legal action to recover the cost of caring for the parents. Not only can they sue you for the money, but in some states adult children can go to jail if they fail to provide filial support.

Currently 30 states, including Virginia, have filial responsibility laws. According to the National Center for Policy Analysis, 21 states allow a civil court action to obtain financial support or cost recovery, 12 states impose criminal penalties on children who do not support their parents, and three states allow both civil and criminal actions.

It used to be that many states rarely enforced their filial support laws, except in the most gruesome cases of neglect. Recently, more and more cases are hitting the courts. Below are some examples:

  • A  case in North Dakota, where Elden Linderkamp had to pay Four Seasons Healthcare $104,276.62 for his parent’s care.
  • A case in Pennsylvania, where John Pittas received the nursing-home bill of $93,000 for his mother, and was held liable.
  • A case in South Dakota where James Nelson, who died at McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls, incurred a bill of almost $75,000.  The hospital submitted the bill to Medicare, which paid $15,657.85, and required that the hospital make adjustments of most of the rest of its charges. Since McKennan had already agreed not to pursue Mr. Nelson’s estate, it decided to seek reimbursement from his children, who were required to pay.
  • Another case in Pennsylvania where a nursing home was suing a 39-year old woman for more than $300,000 in unpaid bills related to her father, who died after spending about a year in the home, and her mother, a dementia patient still living there.

The only way you can make sure you do not fall victim to a filial support action is by planning ahead. Children need to be proactive regarding how their parents are financing their long-term care. Some families of modest means may assume Medicaid will cover a parent’s care once the parent has depleted savings and other resources. But it’s a huge mistake to assume that Medicaid will be easy to obtain.

Medicaid laws are the most complex laws in existence, with 8 separate bodies of law (4 at the Federal level and 4 at the state level) dealing with Medicaid and Medicaid eligibility.  To do proper Medicaid asset protection planning, families need the help of an experienced elder law attorney, preferably a Certified Elder Law Attorney such as Evan H. Farr.  The best time to do Medicaid Asset Protection planning is now.  Whether your parents are years away from needing nursing home care, are already in a nursing facility, or somewhere in between, the time to plan is now, not when your parents are about to run out of money.  Call The Fairfax and Fredericksburg Elder Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. today at 703-691-1888 to make an appointment for a no-cost consultation.

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