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Pennsylvania Law Requires Family Members of Nursing Home Patients to Potentially Bear Costs of Long-Term Care

Having your parents move into a nursing home or assisted-living community can be an emotional event for the whole family. The realization that one’s parents are no longer able to live alone can be a scary reality for some. They taught their children everything, from walking to riding a bike to learning to cooking a treasured family recipe.  Seeing that your parents aren’t the strong mentors of your youth can be truly heartbreaking.

Beyond the emotional and physical toll that this decision can place on family members, the decision to place a loved one in a skilled nursing facility can mean significant financial consequences for the entire family, even when a family member does not sign a personal guaranty of the patient’s nursing home contract.  An 11-year-old Pennsylvania law called the “filial responsibility statute” has the potential to impose grave financial consequences for family members of individuals who fail to adequately prepare for their long-term care.  The 2005 law requires the spouses, children, and parents of indigent persons to financially assist their loved ones.  This legislation has been interpreted by Pennsylvania’s courts to allow nursing home facilities to initiate what are known as “filial support actions” against immediate family members, whereby nursing homes can seek reimbursement for the costs that they incur to support their indigent patients.  If a court order is entered against a family member requiring such individual to financially support a patient, that family member can be faced with paying nursing home costs totaling tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars on pain of imprisonment for failure to make such payments.

Fortunately, there are a number of ways in which family members can adequately protect themselves from these filial support claims by planning for their loved ones’ long-term care.   Federal mandates implemented in conjunction with the Medicaid program can provide family members with some protection from nursing home debt collection.  By obtaining eligibility for Pennsylvania’s Medicaid program, known as Medical Assistance, the nursing home will receive the compensation that it deserves for caring for its patients and family members can rest easy knowing that they will not be left paying these tremendous bills.  Eligibility for Medical Assistance, however, is determined by a complex set of financial regulations which can trigger ineligibility for many seniors.  Advanced planning can enable long-term care patients to shelter their assets from medical creditors, providing long-term financial value to patients and their family members and patient eligibility for Medicaid.  Skilled legal representation involving carefully crafted resource spend down plans can help an individual obtain access to governmental benefits that can be used to pay for long-term skilled nursing care. This option is surely preferable to paying for nursing home bills using the remainder of a patient’s life savings (or, even worse, that of his or her family members).

The estate planning department at Kozloff Stoudt, an experienced team of Berks County lawyers, can help you and your family members plan ahead to avoid the potentially devastating financial consequences of the filial responsibility statute. Kozloff Stoudt Attorneys provides effective, efficient and economic trust and estate services for its clients.  The range of advisory services that it offers wealth planning clients includes probate and non-probate estate administration, trust planning and administration, special needs planning, charitable giving, non-profit organizations, fiduciary litigation and taxation avoidance. As an example of what Kozloff Stoudt Attorneys can do for its clients, this talented legal team can help personal injury victims, including those suffering from car crashes, nursing home neglect, or motorcycle accidents in the Reading, PA region, preserve their financial settlements from extensive medical bills through skilled trust planning.  These services can go a long way to assisting clients with preserving, managing and transferring their wealth.  Advanced planning with the assistance of Kozloff Stoudt can place you and your family in the best financial situation ahead of whatever may happen down the line.

Kozloff Stoudt is proud to offer a comprehensive range of civil legal services from estate planning and administration to workers’ compensation to sexual harassment litigation. For more information on Kozloff Stoudt’s estate planning services, prospective clients are urged to contact the firm at 610-370-6700 or visit their website

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