Am I liable for my deceased father’s medical debt?

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Am I liable for my deceased father’s medical debt?

Asked on June 3, 2015 under Estate Planning, Texas

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

As a general rule, children aren’t responsible their parent’s debts. That having been said, there are a few situations where a child might be required to pay for a parent’s debts.

 If a parent gave property to a child shortly before the parent’s death, creditors may make a claim against that the property transfer left too little money in the estate to pay the parent’s debts and that the property transfer was invalid because it intended to defraud creditors (although the child would not be liable for any amounts beyond the value of the property transferred).

The other situation in which a child may be liable to pay a parent's debt, specifically medical debt, has to do with something called "filial responsibility". Filial responsibility law dates back to colonial times when children were legally required to financially assist their parents if they were unable to pay for their own care.  Today, there are about 30 states that have such laws on the books, however few states enforce them. When they do, the most common case is to require children to reimburse for some Medicaid nursing home expenses but even then actual enforcement has occurred only when a parent has tried to give away assets to children in order to “spend down” to Medicaid eligibility (additionally an adult child's liability is limited if it is shown that they aren't able to afford to pay or save for their own retirement, or if they were abandoned when they were children by their parent).

At this point, you should consult with an attorney that specializes in elder law. They can best advise as to your rights under specific state law.


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