Can A Nursing Home Sue You For Your Parent's End-Of-Life Care?

Do you have an elderly parent who is receiving end-of-life care at a nursing home? Have you just received a certified letter that the nursing home is suing you for the cost of your parent's care? If so, here's a crash course on filial laws and whether or not they apply to you.

What Are Filial Laws?

Filial laws are laws that state that adult children are responsible for the care of their parents if the parents cannot care for themselves or afford their own third-party care. Such care includes shelter, clothing, food, and all medical costs, including end-of-life care.

Do These Laws Apply To You?

If you live in one of the 29 states with filial laws, then there is a good chance that you will, indeed, be responsible for paying back the nursing home for the care they provided to your parent. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. If you can prove that your parent was neglectful or abusive to you while you were growing up, or if they were absent from your childhood, then the court may waive your duty to compensate the nursing home for their care.

The state may also waive your responsibility to pay for elder care if you are not financially sound enough to do so without damaging your own quality of life. 

What If You Refuse To Pay?

If the court deems you financially able to pay for your parent's end-of-life care and you haven't had the responsibility waived due to a history of parental abuse or absenteeism, there could be some very severe consequences including fines and jail time. In Pennsylvania, for example, a person who has deliberately refused payment after being ruled to do so in a filial support trial can be found in contempt of court and sentenced to 6 months in prison.

What If You Don't Live In The Same State?

It doesn't matter what state you live in -- you will be held responsible for your parent's care if the state in which they received the care has and enforces filial support laws. This holds true even if your parent was a resident of a non-filial support state but received care in a state that enforces filial law.

What Should You Do?

If you've just received notice that you're being sued for your parent's end-of-life care expenses, contact a lawyer who specializes in elder law. Your lawyer can help you build a case to prove to the court that you either shouldn't have to pay these expenses or can't afford to pay them.