Q: Are adult children responsible for the medical bills of their parents?

A: In 30 states, an adult child is legally responsible for the expenses of medical and long-term care of a parent, but such requirement is rarely enforced. However, recently nursing homes in both Pennsylvania and South Dakota have sued surviving children for the nursing home bills of their deceased parents.

To avoid such problems, the children should have applied for Medicaid coverage of the parent's nursing home expenses, since the income and assets of the children are not counted in determining the Medicaid eligibility of a parent. In addition, if the parent does become covered by Medicaid, upon the parent's death there is no liability of the children to pay back the state any of the money the state paid out on behalf of the parent while on Medicaid. Creditor's can come after the estate, but not the assets of the adult children.

If the bills for care are credit card related, it is not the responsiblity of adult children to pay. If debt remains at the time of death it is up to the executor to contact each creditor to notify them of the death. The creditor may submit proof of debt and make a claim against the estate. If there are insufficient assets left in the estate, the debt is often wiped out.