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Filial Law: How You Can Be Responsible For An Elderly Parent’s Support

When the moment arrives that your parent needs the support and care provided by an assisted living facility or another form of senior living, a wave of concern about how to finance their care might wash over you. Compounded by the emotional weight of seeing a loved one in a vulnerable state, you may also find yourself grappling with questions about your own financial obligations due to Pennsylvania’s filial law.

In PA, filial responsibility laws significantly impact adult children and their aging parents. Understanding these laws is crucial for families seeking to plan for the future and ensure the well-being of their elderly members. This blog post aims to shed light on filial law in Lancaster, PA, and help you comprehend the scenarios in which you might be responsible for your elderly parent’s support.

What Is Filial Responsibility Law?

Filial responsibility laws are legal statutes that require adult children to support their aging parents. These laws vary by state but aim to ensure that family members do not financially burden the state’s welfare system. Pennsylvania’s filial responsibility laws are among the most stringent in the country, with courts actively enforcing adult children’s financial responsibility for their parents’ care. This stringency contrasts with many other states where such laws exist but are rarely enforced.

Are You Financially Liable For Your Parents’ Nursing Home Bills?

Under Pennsylvania’s filial responsibility laws, adult children can be held financially responsible for their parents’ nursing home bills. If a parent is considered indigent and lacks the financial resources to cover their care costs, nursing homes and medical facilities may seek reimbursement from the children. This situation places a substantial potential burden on adult children, who either need to ensure adequate insurance and benefits coverage for their parents or risk facing their own financial challenges.

What if a Sibling Does Not Contribute to a Parent’s Care?

If a person has siblings, Pennsylvania recognizes that it is the filial responsibility of all of the siblings to help with their parents’ care or needs as they age, and so the person or persons providing care may sue the sibling or siblings who are not. In Eori vs Eori, one of the three siblings supported their mother while the other two did not, so he sued the two that did not. This case resulted in the court ruling that the other two siblings did indeed share responsibility for their mother’s care and support under PA’s filial laws.

In most cases, these issues with siblings sharing support for their parents arise when Medicaid is denied, delayed, and incomplete, but can occur in other instances. If you have questions about your responsibility under filial law in PA, it is best to speak with a lawyer.

How Does Pennsylvania Enforce Filial Responsibility?

In Pennsylvania, the enforcement of filial responsibility laws has seen adult children held legally accountable for their parents’ financial needs, particularly in cases involving nursing home costs and medical bills. The landmark ruling in 2012, where a son was found liable for over $90,000 in nursing home costs incurred by his mother, underscores the seriousness with which Pennsylvania courts treat these obligations.

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What Factors Determine Your Liability Under Filial Law?

Navigating the complexities of filial law and understanding your obligations towards an aging parent can be daunting. In Pennsylvania, the responsibility of adult children to financially support their indigent parents is detailed in the state’s filial responsibility laws. To fully grasp the scope of your potential responsibilities, it is essential to understand the various factors that courts consider when assessing liability under filial law.

  • The parent’s financial status: Courts will consider whether the parent has enough income, assets, or insurance to cover their own care costs.
  • The adult child’s ability to pay: An assessment of the adult child’s financial resources will be made to determine if they can reasonably support their parent.
  • Availability of other sources of payment: This includes whether the parent is eligible for assistance through programs like Medicaid, which can offset some of the costs.
  • The necessity and cost of the care provided: The type and cost of care needed by the parent will be weighed against the adult child’s capacity to contribute financially.
  • Each case’s particular circumstances: Liability is not automatically assumed. The courts evaluate each situation based on its unique context and the factors above.

These criteria collectively guide the legal process in determining an adult child’s financial responsibility for their aging parent under filial law.

How Does the Concept of “Sufficient Financial Ability” Affect an Adult Child’s Liability Under Filial Support Laws?

“Sufficient financial ability” entails evaluating the adult child’s financial resources to determine if they can reasonably support their parent without enduring undue hardship. This assessment affects the court’s decision on whether and how much the child should contribute to their parent’s care.

How Can You Plan To Avoid Unexpected Filial Responsibility?

Navigating the complexities of filial law and understanding your potential financial responsibility for an indigent parent’s support can be daunting. With Pennsylvania’s filial support laws among the most stringent in the nation, adult children in Lancaster, PA, must be well-informed and proactive to avoid unexpected liabilities, especially concerning nursing home costs, medical bills, and other long-term care expenses. Planning ahead is not just beneficial—it is essential. Here is how you can plan to avoid unexpected filial responsibility:

  • Understand Your Parent’s Financial Situation: Early and open conversations about financial planning can help prevent surprises down the line. Knowing the extent of your parent’s assets, insurance, and eligibility for government assistance programs is critical.
  • Explore Insurance Options: Long-term care insurance can be a valuable investment to cover the costs associated with aging, such as nursing home care.
  • Consult With A Financial Advisor: A professional can offer guidance tailored to your family’s specific situation, helping to secure assets and possibly mitigate liability under filial laws.
  • Consider Estate and Medicaid Planning: Proper planning with the aid of an elder law attorney can ensure assets are protected and maximize the chances of Medicaid eligibility for your parents.

Trust Us to Help you Navigate Filial Law in PA

Filial responsibility laws in Pennsylvania place a significant legal and financial obligation on adult children to care for their indigent parents. By understanding these laws and proactively planning for the future, you can better manage the potential impact on your financial well-being. Engaging with financial and legal professionals early on in the process can provide peace of mind and secure the best care for your aging parents without jeopardizing your financial health. Contact us today to schedule a consultation to discuss your obligations concerning filial law.


This blog is being published for educational purposes only as well as to provide general information and a basic understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By entering this site you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the publisher. This site should never be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

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