Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Kin May Be Held Liable for Care

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Kin May Be Held Liable for Care

Article excerpt

If you're a regular reader of this column, you know that we've written frequently on the virtues of planning ahead for the costs and care options as we (and our parents and loved ones) age. While there are still usually some options that one can engage at the last minute -- although perhaps not always the best ones -- planning ahead clearly pays off and can help ease one's mind.

The root of many of the crises are created by the need to finance extremely expensive long-term care costs, such as nursing home care, which now runs almost $100,000 a year in Pennsylvania. While many people who fail to address this issue risk "losing it all," it may get even worse. Now, families are facing financial pressures beyond just the loss of the assets of the person needing care because a little known law, dating back to Colonial "poor laws," opens the door to financial liability to pay for such care for other family members, such as the children of a nursing home resident.

In July 2005, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed the "Filial Support Law," commonly known as Act 43. As we approach the seven-year anniversary of the re-codification of this law (it previously existed in the Welfare Code from the 1930s and was re- codified in the Domestic Relations Code for modern usage), there have been increasing instances of facilities pursuing family members to pay for care, usually for parents' care in a long-term care facility.

The key language is found in Section 4603 of the Act, which states:

"All of the following individuals have the responsibility to care for and maintain or financially assist an indigent person, regardless of whether the indigent person is a public charge:

1. Spouse of indigent person;

2. Child of indigent person;

3. Parent of indigent person."

In the broadest interpretation of Act 43, it means that a person could be liable to pay for his or her parents' long-term care facility costs. In the narrowest sense, it means that baby boomers should be concerned that their parents have adequately addressed the situation. Either way, this law is now being regularly used as a device to secure payment from family members to pay for care costs. …

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