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Thanks to certain laws - YOU may be stuck with your parents' rest home bill

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
November 16th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Everyone with elderly parents visualizes the day their parents become ill and need extended care - from a lengthy hospital stay to 24/7 nursing home care. Parental support laws, of "filial support" may leave the children of these patients with a hefty bill - in the event they should pass away.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The law currently on the books in 29 states and Puerto Rico allow long-term care providers to pursue payment from a parent's adult children.

A professor of law at the Dickinson School of Law at Penn State University, Katherine Pearson has found that long-term care providers are taking advantage of such laws in at least two states: Pennsylvania and South Dakota.

Pearson cites one high-profile case in Pennsylvania involving expenses incurred by car accident victim Maryann Pittas. Pittas was a patient in an Allentown nursing home for about six months before relocating to Greece to live with her relatives. In the meantime, Pittas' son got stuck with the bill for nearly $93,000.

The superior court ruled in favor of the nursing home in May of the year, based on the son's ability to pay.

"By holding the son liable for a lump sum of close to $93,000 in the Pittas case, the superior court appears to confirm a significant tool for certain creditors of individuals who are unable to pay their debts personally, permitting the filial support statute to be applied retroactively to substantial accrued debt, without requiring evidence of fault on the part of the targeted family member," according to Pearson's study.

According to Pearson's research, parental support laws date back to colonial times and even earlier. Such laws were established to make sure family members relied on one another rather than turning to public resources for help.

As many as 45 states at one time had these laws, but many states repealed them as Medicaid began to take on a greater role in providing relief to the poor.

However, new restrictions have been placed on Medicaid, which traditionally has paid a large percentage of long-term care costs in the United States. For example, the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 increases penalties on people who transfer assets for less than market value prior to applying for Medicaid.

These cases are not everyday. President-elect of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, or NAELA Howard Krooks, who is an attorney with Elder Law Associates PA in Boca Raton, Florida wishes to put some minds at ease.

"Filial responsibility laws traditionally have rarely been enforced," Krooks says.

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