Nursing homes are not a worldwide phenomenon. In many cultures, people expect children to care for their elderly parents themselves. Despite the ubiquity of care homes in the United States, you may be surprised to know that some states, including California, have laws to make children responsible for caring for their parents. These are known as filial responsibility laws.
Does filial responsibility mean paying health care costs?
California courts typically regard the filial responsibility law as outdated and rarely apply it. The state even has a law that contradicts it. This law says children are not liable for paying their parents’ medical bills.
What if I die with debt medical debt?
If you die owing health care providers money, they may claim against your estate. So while your child is not directly responsible for paying your medical debt, it could reduce how much of your estate reaches them. Medicaid can be particularly aggressive in seeking to reclaim costs from your estate. The laws surrounding Medicaid are complicated, so it is best to seek legal advice early to prevent financial problems later.
Do not let your children cosign for medical costs
Some care homes may try to persuade your child to cosign the contract for you to enter the nursing home. If your child agrees, the care home could hold them personally responsible for any debt you incur during your stay. The same could apply if you pay the costs on a credit card you share with your child. When you cosign things, you enter into joint responsibility.
Long-term health care planning is a vital element of your estate plan. It can help you protect assets you wish to transfer to your children from being used to pay your medical bills.