Friday, October 11, 2013
Today I received another telephone call from a stunned adult child living in another state, trying to make sense of papers he'd received, telling him was being sued because there was money due on his parent's nursing home bill. Another filial support case, filed under Pennsylvania's law. As far as I could hear, the son had not done anything wrong, other than trying to figure out why his mother was so deeply in debt even before she went into the nursing home. But Pennsylvania's filial support law -- and most states' filial support laws (see this week's earlier post about siblings sued for filial support in North Dakota) -- does not require proof of fault in order to trigger liability. Kinship of the right degree is all that's necessary for potential liability.
So, once again it was time for me to get out my list of elder law attorneys, to suggest who might be able to help the son.
Experienced Pennsylvania elder law attorneys probably make more money because of the state's unique history of nursing homes suing for filial support. Families need their expertise to avoid even the slightest problem with nursing homes' admission and billing practices. Plus, there is a minefield of eligibility rules associated with Medicaid applications. So you would not think Pennsylvania's elder law attorneys would have time or interest in repealing filial support laws. Wrong. Pennsylvania elder law attorneys are tired of seeing adult children caught in family tragedies, struggling to figure out how to help their parents, without enough money to go around.
Sure, sometimes the nursing home suit is caused by "bad" children, but I hear from a heck of a lot of folks who fall into Pennsylvania's filial support trap without any affirmative misconduct.
Pennsylvania elder law attorneys -- through PAELA, the Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys -- have taken a stance. They are urging Pennsylvania legislators to repeal the state's filial support law. Details of PAELA's position are set forth by long-time elder law guru Jeff Marshall on his Elder and Estate Planning Blog. And if you want another way to stay on top of developments, check out ElderLawGuy on Twitter. Yes, Jeff's that "guy," too!