The short answer is “no.” You’re not personally responsible for your Mom’s nursing home bill as long as you don’t misapply your Mom’s funds as her legal representative (Power of Attorney).
‘Filial Responsibility’ Laws – What Are They and Do We Have Them in Minnesota?
29 States (not Minnesota), have what are called “filial responsibility” laws, which may create a legal obligation for family members other than a spouse to pay for outstanding health care bills. As the Federal government makes it harder to qualify for assistance with long-term care, some fear that the states with those laws will begin to push harder to enforce them. For Minnesotans, however, we don’t have them! (Actually, we used to have them, and they were repealed). Currently, spousal obligation remains, but no other family members can be held personally responsible for outstanding medical bills.
When I was researching this topic, I found a very helpful, (although not terribly recent), article from 2009 in Bench and Bar of Minnesota by Susan T. Peterson. I recommend it for those interested in understanding the history and interpretation of current Minnesota laws on the subject. Below is the link (cut and paste into your address bar if the link doesn’t work):
In short, your spouse can be held liable for your bills, even with a valid pre-nuptial agreement in many cases. This is why you may have heard of some couples who contemplate divorce when one spouse permanently enters long-term care. Although this can be an answer for some, it isn’t the answer for everyone. (Strangely, the reality of this responsibility still seems to catch some married couples by surprise. If you need a plan for your financial future that includes one or both of you needing long-term care, it’s never too early to talk to a financial advisor and estate planning professional.) But, I digress! This entry is about adult children of nursing home residents who are worried about how this works. Below is a link to the pertinent Minnesota Statute on the subject:
Minn. Stat. § 144.6501 Nursing Home Admission Contracts https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=144.6501
In the State of Minnesota, your children or family members other than your spouse may not be held personally responsible for your outstanding medical bills. When you’re not the spouse, only your Mom’s funds can be used to cover bills. When your Mom, for example, gives you (one of her children), Power of Attorney (POA) that makes you “Attorney-in-Fact,” (AIF) you can sign as the “responsible party” on a nursing home admission for your Mom. If you sign as “responsible party,” you will be responsible for using your Mom’s assets appropriately and responsibly as her AIF. So, although nursing home admission contracts should always be carefully considered, if you’re the child who is not her POA, even if you sign as a “responsible party,” you don’t actually have access to her funds and, therefore, cannot be held personally responsible. If you’re the child who is her POA, you do have access to her funds, but you can’t be held personally responsible for her bills when her funds run out unless you misapply her funds (don’t use them properly and responsibly according to the situation). See below excerpt from the Minnesota Statutes.
“A responsible party shall be personally liable only to the extent the resident’s income or assets were misapplied.” Minn. Stat. § 144.6501, subd. 4(d).
In Minnesota, our statutes make extended family care a little less risky than some states for those who agree to be care-givers. But, be sure to act carefully and with consideration in all your decisions for Mom or Dad or for whomever you are responsible. And, remember there are financial and legal professionals to assist you in navigating the waters. So, don’t be afraid to ask for a little help if you think you need it.This blog is written by Bridget-Michaele Reischl, Attorney DECORO LAW OFFICE, PLLC www.decorolaw.com