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  • Writer's pictureWorley Elder Law

Understanding “Filial Responsibility” as the Adult Child of an Aging Parent

Are you an adult child with aging parents? If your aging parents needed to go into a nursing home do you know how they would pay for it? Have you ever heard of the term, “Filial Responsibility”? Filial responsibility is a legal term for the duty owed by an adult child or adult children to their parents for their parents’ life necessities. When parents have minor children it is accepted and the law that minor children are to be cared for by their parents. But what happens if parents with adult children need care? What happens if parents cannot pay their bills or pay for a nursing home, are the adult children responsible?

As an adult child of aging parents, you need to know and understand that almost 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. So, can filial responsibility laws make adult children legally responsible to pay the nursing home bill of their parents?

In addition, filial responsibility laws may 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. Recently, 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. Because the cost of nursing homes is so high, this may be a legal risk adult children cannot afford to ignore and need to understand.

With all the above discussed, what can you as an adult child do? How can you be prepared before a crisis occurs and your parents need a nursing home? First, have a very honest and critical discussion with your adult parents regarding their ability to afford a nursing home. Find out if they have long-term care insurance. If they do, be sure they give you a copy of their policy. This is because if your parents were to suffer a stroke or be in an accident and experience loss of mental capacity, you will know and have a copy of their long-term care policy. If they do not have long-term care insurance perhaps you will learn that your parents have been saving to cover the cost of a nursing home. If this is the case you, as their adult child, should have a way to access these funds, usually via a durable power of attorney or a trust.

Finally, if you find out your parents do not have long-term care insurance or the means to cover a nursing home, it may be necessary to assess whether your parents could qualify for Medicaid. As soon as possible you and your parents need to meet with a qualified Florida elder law attorney and begin Medicaid planning. When the time comes and your parents need a nursing home and your parents are eligible for Medicaid, it would go towards covering nursing home expenses.

We know this topic may raise more questions that it answers and want to help you plan for the future, and the unexpected. Whether you're young and single or a married five-time great grandparent, your voice and wishes need to be known. Worley Elder Law, based in beautiful Bradenton, Florida, focuses on helping you understand your options in designing your Estate Plan or Elder Law needs. Whether it's preventative incapacity planning or establishing your legacy, we will take the time to explain every option and work with you to create a customized plan just as unique as you and your family are. Please do not hesitate to contact us to let us help you.


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