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Filial responsibility is the legal concept that a family member may be liable for another’s debts merely based upon the family relationship. While these laws have not been enforced very frequently, the concept could have devastating effects for families taking care of their elderly loved ones.  According to K. Gabriel Heiser the following states have filial responsibility laws:

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  1. Alaska
  2. Arkansas
  3. California
  4. Connecticut
  5. Delaware
  6. Georgia
  7. Indiana
  8. Iowa
  9. Kentucky
  10. Louisiana
  11. Maryland
  12. Massachusetts
  13. Mississippi
  14. Montana
  15. Nevada
  16. New Jersey
  17. North Carolina
  18. North Dakota
  19. Ohio
  20. Oregon
  21. Pennsylvania
  22. Rhode Island
  23. South Dakota
  24. Tennessee
  25. Utah
  26. Vermont
  27. Virginia
  28. West Virginia

At this point in time, Florida does not have a filial responsibility law. The only way that family members in Florida will be held liable for their loved one’s long term care costs is if they sign the contract with the facility individually, making themselves legally responsible.  When signing contracts for your elderly loved ones, you must clearly sign in your agency capacity.

In 2012 the Superior Court of PA upheld a judgment against a son for his mother’s nursing home costs.  The son was held liable for nearly $93,000 for his mother’s care.  The law in PA stated
(a) Liability. —
(1) Except as set forth in paragraph (2), 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:
(i) The spouse of the indigent person.
(ii) A child of the indigent person.
(iii) A parent of the indigent person.

This law has been on the books in Pennsylvania for many years but has not been used frequently.  As the government tightens the budget for Medicaid we can expect to see more efforts to hold family members responsible for the care of their parents.