Your parents have taken care of you – now it is your turn.

29 states  and Puerto Rico have filial responsibility laws.  These laws are based upon the concept that children owe their parents a duty of respect and of care.  These filial responsibility laws, although on the books for many years, were largely unenforced for years as Medicare and Social security helped seniors support themselves.  However, the laws have recently been used in several states and by medical facilities and other creditors to enforce a child’s duty to be financially responsible for their parents.

Imagine you are a successful professional, saving for a home, your children’s college and are otherwise financially stable.  One day you get a notice in the mail from a creditor of your father (from whom you are estranged) and it says you must pay his back rent – in the amount of $15,000!  What about the nursing home charges that Medicare doesn’t cover?

Take the case recently decided in Pennsylvania.  In 2012, the Pennsylvania Superior Court upheld a lower court ruling  in Health Care & Retirement Corporation vs. Pittas that allowed a nursing home to obtain payment from the son of his mother, Maryann Pittas, for her nearly $93,000 nursing home bill after she relocated to Greece with her bill unpaid. Maryann Pittas had applied for Medicaid but had left the country before there was a decision on her application. The nursing home sued her adult son for payment!

The laws differ from state to state but certain exceptions apply.  If, for example, your parent was never financially responsible for you or “abandoned” you as a child you may not be responsible.  Likewise if you or your family is indigent or has significant financial burdens (such as child in college) then the courts typically will not enforce the filial responsibility laws.  But there is no requirement that the filial responsibility be borne equally by the children of the parent.  If only one of the children is financially able to support the parent then that child will be responsible for the entire debt or cost.  The states that have filial responsibility laws are the following:

Alaska Kentucky New Jersey Tennessee
Arkansas Louisiana North Carolina Utah
California Maryland North Dakota Vermont
Connecticut Massachusetts Ohio Virginia
Delaware Mississippi Oregon West Virginia
Georgia Montana Pennsylvania
Indiana Nevada Rhode Island Puerto Rico
Iowa New Hampshire South Dakota

In order to decide whether or not you may be subject to a filial responsibility law you must research the laws of the jurisdiction in which your parent is living.  If your parent or parents live in a state with filial responsibility statutes then you may need to get more involved in your parent’s finances.  In one of the articles I researched it said that China has filial responsibility laws which also require a child to visit his or her parents every month!