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Filial Responsibility Laws

June 5th, 2009 · No Comments

Filial responsibility laws state that adult children are legally responsible for providing such necessities as food, clothing, shelter, and medical attention if their parents are indigent.

Right now, only thirty states have such a law on their books, but because of the financial stress on Medicaid there is growing talk that the law may be revisited.

The New Deal

Prior to the creation of the Social Security system provided for in the New Deal, families were legally responsible for the care of their aging parents.

The advent of Medicaid in 1965 further eroded the need for the involvement of adult children. Currently, Medicaid only looks at the needs and eligibility of the applicant. When the applicant’s financial resources are exhausted, the government steps in and pays the cost of their long-term care.

If the filial responsibility laws are again taken into consideration, they will need to be revised because they are at odds with existing federal and state laws.

Can Boomers Afford to Step Up to the Plate?

With Medicaid funds dwindling at a rapid rate, states are looking for other ways to assist the elderly. The cost of long-term care has exploded, and requiring adult children to take responsibility for their parents’ care may soon take it’s own toll on baby boomers who are themselves moving into the over burdened Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid systems.

If baby boomers are held financially responsible for their parents long-term care, what happens when their finances dry up? Forcing adult children to pay for their parents care will create a slippery slope of fiscal responsibility in families whereby savings accounts and pension funds will be drained for years to come. What about those who are now laid off from their jobs and struggling to make ends meet?

Also, which adult child is responsible for their parents care? Who will take responsibility in the family? Many adult children refuse to step up to the plate as it is. Too many caregivers struggle with the fact that their siblings shy away or disappear when Mom and Dad need their help. The legal system could become inundated with court cases, both from the government and families members themselves.

Who is Responsible?

And what about children who were adopted, or those who were abandoned and not even raised by their own parents? Will the government then decide who is legally responsible for the care of the parent?

As Federal and State governments continue to struggle financially, placing more of a burden on individuals for the care of their aging parent may very well be a part of the future for upcoming baby boomers.

Unfortunately for many, the Filial Responsibility Laws will open a can of worms that will affect retirement plans, inheritance, and the lifestyles of those who are struggling financially even now.

For further reading on this subject, here are a couple of links that you may want to check into:

Gross, Jane, Adult Children, Aging Parents and the Law, The New Old Age Blog, New York Times

Ross, Allison E, Taking Care of Our Caretakers: Using Filial Responsibility Laws to Support the Elderly Beyond the Government’s Assistance.

What do you think? Should adult children be required to pay all of their parents medical and living costs when the parents are no longer able?

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