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Could you be on the hook for your parents’ nursing home bill?

You’ve moved your mom or dad into a nursing home and breathed a sigh of relief. The stress of caring for your parent is now behind you and you can rest easy knowing that they’ll be well cared for by skilled nursing staff.

Professional care, however, can come with a hefty price tag. Have you planned upfront for the long-term cost of the care being provided? What if your mom or dad can no longer pay the bill? Can you be held responsible as the adult child?

Being on the hook for your parent’s nursing home bill is a scenario that few people think about. Can it happen to you? It depends but there’s a strong likelihood that the answer is yes.

Many states have a “filial support” law that states adult children have a duty to care for and pay medical or long-term care bills for their indigent parents. The law varies widely from state to state and is typically interpreted on a case by case basis in the court. Very often, individual circumstances of an adult child’s ability to pay will also be considered. But it’s important to know there are laws that support nursing homes who wish to recoup their costs. Even if you live in a state without a filial support law, there may be other legal routes that a facility can take that involve adult children or even other relatives having to pay.

How does a person start to accrue costs? Nursing home bills often start to pile up when private insurance, a person’s own money or Medicare is exhausted. If you’ve run out of money and you’re poor applying to Medicaid becomes the next step. From the time that you submit the application and you wait for approval, it’s very easy to rack up a bill in the range of thousands of dollars.

What steps can you take to prevent yourself from being liable for a nursing home bill?

Begin by understanding your parents’ financial situation. Do they have adequate savings? Do they have long-term care insurance? What is the likelihood that they will outlive their money? Work with a financial planner to know what options you have and how to make the most of your resources.

Attain the services of an attorney who specializes in elder care and start planning. A move to a nursing home may be something that you know is coming down the road or it may happen suddenly due to a healthcare crisis. In either case, hire an elder law attorney as soon as you know that a move will be happening. He or she will help you to understand the questions you should ask regarding the nursing home billing, the contract you’ll be required to sign and your rights and responsibilities as the closest relative to their new resident.

When Medicaid forms need to be submitted, the nursing home staff may offer to complete the form for you. It can be tempting to take them up on this offer because who likes to complete paperwork? But this is often where problems stem from. The nursing home may submit the form late or leave out important financial details that cause unnecessary delays in getting Medicaid approval.

What should you do instead? Always complete Medicaid forms yourself. Take the time to make sure all required information is included, and receipts are attached. Review the document and sign it in the presence of your lawyer. Or, better yet, have an attorney with experience in this area guide you through the process.

Think that this type of financial ruin is ridiculous and could never happen to you? Think again. Plan for what may seem like the most unlikely scenario and it may never happen. But fail to plan and you may just come face to face with a situation that can forever change your own financial future and destroy your sense of security.

Could this unpleasant surprise be in your future? Kimbrough Law can help you sort things out. Just give us a call.

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