Are you the adult child of senior parents? Do you know if your parents have completed their Florida estate plan? Do you know if they have talked with a Florida elder law attorney about long-term care planning? Long-term care planning is important and may have an affect on you, as the adult child of your senior parents. Let us tell you why.

Have you ever heard of the term, filial responsibility? Filial responsibility refers to an adult child’s legal duty to support his or her parents. Everyone is familiar with the idea of parents being held legally responsible for the actions and debts of their minor children, however, were you aware of the possibility of adult children being responsible for the debts of their parents? There are at least 27 states (Florida is not one of them) in the U.S. with their own filial responsibility laws, which can create a legal obligation of adult children for their parents. Often little attention may be paid to these laws, but when a parent is placed in a nursing home these laws may have the potential to have some influence.

Furthermore, in some states there may be a filial responsibility law that may 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. Unfortunately, in recent years some states have seen these laws applied in an unusual way to obtain judgments against adult children for the bills incurred by their parents in a nursing home. With the rising cost of nursing homes, this may be a legal risk adult children cannot afford to ignore. As of now, nursing homes utilizing filial responsibility laws to force adult children to pay their parent’s nursing home bills looks to be the exception, rather than the norm. These laws, however, remain on the books in many states.

How can you as an adult child work with your parents to avoid this problem? You need to begin with a critically important and sensitive discussion with your parents regarding their ability to afford a nursing home. Find out if they have long-term care insurance. If they do have long-term care insurance it is important for you to have a copy of their policy. This is because if your parents were to become incapacitated in an accident, there may be a real possibility of no one ever knowing of their long-term care policy. Next, if your parents do not have a long-term care insurance policy, find out if they have money put aside to cover the costs of a nursing home. If they do, find out how you as the adult child can have a way to access these funds, for example with a durable power of attorney or a trust. 

If the discussions with your parents reveal that they do not have long-term care insurance or the means to cover a nursing home, it is now necessary to discover whether they have done any Medicaid planning. If there has been no Medicaid planning, then what Medicaid planning needs to be done in order to make your parents Medicaid eligible? Having Medicaid eligibility will help your parents with covering nursing home expenses. Be sure to make an appointment with a qualified Florida elder law attorney,

Planning for the future is critical to ensure that your goals for the end of life are achieved. We know this article may raise more questions that it answers.  We do telephone, computer, and face-to-face appointments. Our face-to-face appointments are held outside in the open air (frequently selected by clients for document signing) and inside our office conference room. We follow all CDC guidelines. Our office procedures adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols and are designed and enhanced by medical review and air quality engineering.