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Modern Estate Planning Blog

Elder Law & Special Needs Planning

Elder Law Attorney in Sacramento: Who Pays for Nursing Home Costs After Death?

December 6, 2012

Most people are pretty relieved when a Sacramento elder law attorney tells them that their children will not be directly responsible for their debts after death. Of course, when a person passes away and has debt, there is still a responsibility to pay for it through the assets of the estate. If there’s enough debt, then it will eat up all the assets that would have been inherited. That’s not the greatest news, of course, but it is a relief to find out that any outstanding balance doesn’t get passed on the one’s children.

In some states, however, that may not be the case with nursing home expenses. Long-term-care costs can add up, and if Mom or Dad passes away with an outstanding bill, the facility may have recourse to come after the adult children. The laws regarding this possibility are referred to as “filial support.” When this happens, the care provider expects those left behind to either pay the bill or to work with Medicaid to get it paid.

The requirements for fulfilling the law are often fairly vague, which leaves a lot of wiggle room for the facilities to go after payment. They can be used to force adult children of ailing parents to take care of all kinds of financial activities for parents who are incapable of doing it themselves. This even extends to filing Medicaid paperwork and disclosing a parent’s assets that have been put into the child’s name. A qualified elder law attorney in Sacramento will be able to tell you how these laws are applicable here in California, but keep in mind that things change, so you’ll want to keep yourself up-to-date on what’s going on.

There are some very interesting and troubling results coming out of Pennsylvania, where the filial laws are being used fairly aggressively to get adult children to pay for their parents’ long-term care. In many cases, if a judge decides that an individual has the means to pay the bill, he or she is responsible for it; even though the care was provided for a different person altogether.

To help avoid a situation like this, an elder law attorney in Sacramento will help develop a strategy that makes it less likely. For example, a senior may want to purchase long-term-care insurance in advance of needing this type of care. It is recommended to look into the filial support laws and to come up with alternatives well in advance of actually needing to put them into practice. Again, a Sacramento elder law attorney is one of your best bets for creating a situation where the children are not burdened with the parents’ long-term-care bills.

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Very professional, comprehensive service and extremely valuable. Heather and her team are very knowledgeable and we feel they have our best interests at heart. They make uncomfortable decision conversations possible and manageable. Working with Heather we were able to focus our attention on important issues that we questioned or purposely avoided for too long. Now that these questions are answered and our family is covered, it's a wonderful feeling.

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