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Are Children Liable to Pay for Their Parent's Nursing Home?

  • August 30th, 2017
My wife and her sister are agents under a power of attorney for their mother. We live in Pennsylvania and her mother is in a nursing home here. After repeated verbal assurances from the nursing home's social worker that the nursing home understood why there was a delay in applying for Medicaid (and no communication from the home to the contrary), two weeks ago the nursing home's attorney demanded that we submit a Medicaid application. The application was submitted in compliance with the nursing home's timetable, but we are still dealing with getting additional information that Medicaid has asked for. Now we have received a letter from the nursing home threatening to bill us for approximately $110,000 in room and board costs. What is our liability?

Typically, children are not legally responsible to support their parents and the power of attorney doesn’t change this. However, children can take on this liability, sometimes unwittingly, under the documents they sign upon nursing home admission or commitments they may make to the nursing home. Further, some states have “filial responsibility” laws that do confer liability on the children. Usually these are old laws that are on the books but are not enforced. However, Pennsylvania’s filial responsibility law, 23 Pa.C.S. § 4603, is relatively new and may be enforced. To get a definite answer based on your circumstances and Pennsylvania law and practice, you will need to consult with a Pennsylvania elder law attorney. To find one near you, go here:

For more on adult childrens’ liability for an aging parent’s medical bills, click here.

Local Elder Law Attorneys in Ashburn, VA

Judith Mitnick

Needham Mitnick & Pollack, PLC
Falls Church, VA

Jean Ball

Hale Ball Carlson Baumgartner Murphy PLC
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Samantha Fredieu

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Last Modified: 08/30/2017

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