Most parents intend to leave some inheritance to their children. However, a Pennsylvania law can also cause a parent to leave their children with significant debt. The law is commonly referred to as the filial responsibility law. This law requires spouses, children, and parents of indigent persons to care for and financially assist them.
Contact May Herr & Grosh, LLP for a consultation about Pennsylvania’s filial responsibility laws.
HOW DOES FILIAL RESPONSIBILITY APPLY TO YOU?
A 2017 news article by InvestmentNews touches on two court rulings involving filial responsibility in Pennsylvania. In Health Care & Retirement Corp. of America v. Pittas, a son was required to shell out $93,000.00 to fulfill a debt to a nursing home that had provided care for his elderly mother. In Eori v. Eori one of three siblings sued the other two because he was providing support for their mother and the other two were not. The court ruled that the other two siblings were accountable for their mother’s support under the law. Both rulings will have impacts on future PA filial responsibility cases. If you’re wondering exactly what the state’s filial-responsibility law entails, we will discuss it in more detail below.
WHAT IS PENNSYLVANIA’S FILIAL-SUPPORT LAW?
Pennsylvania’s filial-support law (23 Pa.C.S. § 4603(a)-(c)) provides that individuals such as spouses, children, or parents who possess “sufficient financial ability” of an “indigent person” has “[the] responsibility to care for and maintain or financially assist an indigent person, regardless of whether the indigent person is a public charge.”
To put it simply, Pennsylvania law stipulates that an individual can be held financially responsible for the debts of a spouse, child, or parent who cannot pay these debts themselves. However, the law does allow for exceptions to filial responsibility.
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ARE THERE EXCEPTIONS TO THE PA FILIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW?
There are some exceptions to the filial responsibility law:
- First, if you do not have the means to financially support your parents, the law may not apply to you.
- Second, if the indigent parent had abandoned a child for ten continuous years while the child was a minor, the child will not be required to foot their parent’s bill.
Typically, if a parent cannot pay for nursing care, they can apply for Medicaid to pay the bills. However, the filial responsibility law may kick in where Medicaid is denied, incomplete, or delayed.
If you have a low-income elderly parent who is or will be receiving nursing care, it’s important to educate yourself on both the Medicaid process and long-term care planning. When you are in a situation where you think the filial responsibility law would apply, the attorneys at May, Herr & Grosh will be happy to meet with you to discuss what debts you may be legally responsible for. Contact us today to consult with our legal team!
Matt Grosh is an attorney at May, Herr & Grosh. He practices in the areas of estate planning and administration, corporate law, nonprofit organizations and taxation.