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Filial support laws currently exist in at least 30 states as well as Puerto Rico and have quietly existed on the books for a long time. At one point, these laws existed in a whopping 45 states. But in the past, they have been essentially ignored and lenient in their implementation.

Now, however, these laws are a very real and present concern for the adult children of elderly loved ones. Worst of all, many don’t know about such laws or what they entail.

What is Filial Support?

Essentially, filial support is the legally-imposed financial responsibility whereby children are responsible for their aging parents who are not able to pay for their own care. The origins of filial support are found in long-standing laws and lines of legal reasoning. In fact, this ancient law has been around since as early as 1601 in England, according to Brooks Law.

History aside, consider filial support the flip-side of the legally-imposed financial responsibility parents owe to their young children. Some may view this as fair; parents financially support their children until age 18, and the children support their parents’ care as they age.

Nevertheless, in a modern context with the massive escalation of health care costs, some see a dangerous pattern emerging. This is most dramatically evident when it comes to the costs of long-term care – and the expenses aren’t getting any more affordable. That said, it’s often not filial support that is the issue in the eyes of some but the heavy costs they may be legally responsible for.

Are You Liable?

While these are state laws, you might still be liable even if an elderly loved one resides in one of the applicable states and you do not. But nursing home bills are not cheap. According to the CFA Institute, care today costs an average of $7,000 to $8,000 in the United States, money which many may not have… and that’s per month. Yet, the median household income of Americans, as of 2016, is approximately $59,000. However, annual costs for nursing care would range from $84,000 to $96,000. Do the math. This poses a problem for many.

You may be thinking that paying for an elderly parent’s living expenses is an option, but it’s not. You are legally responsible for the costs your parent(s) don’t have the money for. That said, the nursing home your parent is residing in can sue you if you don’t have the money to pay. The money has to come from somewhere, and if not from your parent, Medicaid, or VA benefits – you may be next on the line. Does this have your attention?

What’s Next?

There’s no arguing with the law, but educating yourself on filial support is crucial. Fortunately, an article by the CFA Institute entitled “Filial Support Laws: ‘A Sleeping Giant’” provides further information about these laws, offering suggestions for what to do when you are held liable for a loved one’s care.

Be sure to read the original article and, perhaps, do a little online research yourself. If nothing else, find out which states have filial support laws and what their specific guidelines are. Better yet, give us a call and schedule a consultation, and we’ll put a long-term care plan together.

At Idaho Estate Planning, we understand the challenges faced by elder Americans and their families. We have resources throughout the Treasure Valley, experts in the field of elder care & planning. We have the experience and expertise to help you maintain your options and protect yourself as well as your loved ones now and into the future. Remember, good planning is no accident.