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Can I be held responsible for my parent’s nursing home costs?

On Behalf of | Oct 8, 2020 | Elder Law, Long-Term Care Planning |

The concept of filial law dates back hundreds of years, most notably with the 1601 passage of the Elizabethan Poor Law. This is often cited as the first law to state adult children were legally obligated to provide financial support for their impoverished parents.

Echoes of that mandate persist today. Nearly 30 U.S. states have some sort of filial responsibility law, in which an adult child might be held responsible for an indigent parent’s nursing home costs. Where do things stand in Colorado?

Colorado does not have a filial responsibility law

Filial responsibility laws may seem outdated, and in some ways they are. As this Forbes story points out, these statutes were not used very often in recent decades, particularly with the more widespread adoption of Medicaid.

However, that has changed in recent year. Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities – in states where these laws still exist – are more frequently trying to hold adult children responsible for their parents’ bills.

Colorado residents can exhale.

The state does not have a filial responsibility law on the books. This means, if you have an older parent in a nursing home that is unable to pay for care themselves, the home cannot come after you or your personal assets directly to cover those expenses.

They may have other ways to recoup costs

A care facility owed money for medical services is, essentially, a creditor. This means they could file a claim against the estate of a former resident following that individual’s passing. Ensuring this debt is paid off is the responsibility of the personal representative during probate.

A large claim could easily eat into the estate’s assets and result in heirs receiving less than anticipated. (Assets that do not go through probate, if properly protected, may potentially be off limits.) In addition, federal law asks states to seek reimbursement for Medicaid expenses linked to long-term care. This money could also come from the estate.

As our loved ones age, financial planning is crucial. Colorado law may prevent nursing homes from coming after you directly, but the ripple effects of a creditor claim can easily upend the goals of an otherwise carefully crafted estate plan.

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