Is there personal liability as power of attorney? - AgingCare.com

Is there personal liability as power of attorney?

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We've heard that we can and that we cannot be held liable for my wife's parents' unpaid bills. Her dad, sadly, passed recently. Her mom is in a rehab racking up a significant bill while we try to figure out how to get Medicaid and a different long term facility.

None of the accounts are joint with either my wife or me on them.

I did sign as a family member to get MIL into the rehab, but the intake agreement does not make me liable. My wife and I just got guardianship. If the payment from Medicaid takes too long or the sale of her house takes too long, can I be held responsible for her rehab bill?

Thanks! We're Runragged.

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Response to Lizann, At home settings are dangerous due to new laws across the whole U.S. Do your homework. ANY thing can be considered as "elder abuse". Fact. Families are being destroyed in record numbers due to misinterpretation of laws. Respecting the wish of a parent to NOT eat, go to the doctor, your loud voice (due to parent refusing to wear a hearing aid), etc.- can be con-screwed as "Elder Abuse". A felony. Many states are requiring any child of a parent who cannot pay their medical bills held accountable. Wages are garnished. This is without POA or guardianship circumstances. Check out the laws in your state. Caregivers and children are unaware of what is going on in congress.
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You can obtain a 'letter of administration' from the register of wills to distribute your fathers assets, however keep in mind that what is his is also your mothers and Medicaid will look at this. There is a 5 year look back is a lot of states, so any assets that were transferred/used in that period will count as assets on a Medicaid application. You can sign someone into a long term care facility and not be responsible for the bill. Contact your local Area Agency on Aging or Bureau of Senior Services, they will be able to direct you and give you information.
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This question brings to mind, Just who is overseeing the POA? Where are the checks & balances with POA's?
I asked my own attorney this (because of continuing troubles with my Sis who is IMHO a very bad POA) and he basically said, there is no one who oversees POA. It is all up to the family, or community, to identify any wrongs done--after they're done--and then anybody who has a LOT of money to petition for guardianship (like $20-30,000) can try to get guardianship, which is in fact overseen.
But the POA's, nobody checks up on them. Unless someone like you or me does, and then if we get concerned, we have to shell out our own bucks to try to change the problem.....the POA can use the older persons' money to protect themselves! And that is very sad.
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Thanks everyone! Our attorney also answered this separately and pretty much confirmed all that was said here.

Our situation is out of the ordinary. My wife's sibling committed pretty serious POA abuse, so we've taken over.

In our state, there is not a filial law that makes us liable for unpaid debts, according to what our attorney told us. If those with POA or guardianship are responsible for the unpaid balances, then no one will take on these roles.

A case in Pennsylvania from a couple of years ago apparently has stirred this issue up significantly - hh-law/news/pennsylvania-filial-support-law.aspx. A son who's mother left the country was left with his mother's nursing home bill because the courts felt he had the ability to pay it and he was the last family member left in the county.
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If you willfully misuse her funds you will be liable. Her funds are to be used for her benefit only. I'm surprised you got guardianship without first being POA & joint on accounts but your circumstances may have been out of the ordinary. Depending on the state you may be liable for her care - by all means check filial responsibility laws in your state. The NH must wait for a determination of Medicaid for payment. If your MIL is only in for rehab then Medicare should pay 100 days & discharge. You may be jumping the gun here. Do yourself a favor and talk to your local Area on Aging office & they can give you some referrals.
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Go up to the Money and Legal tab and click on POA & Guardianship. Also go to state specific info at http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/uncategorized/2011/2011_aging_gship_st_hbks_2011.authcheckdam.pdf
and find your particular state.
Are you liable? Yes, if you make a mistake, such as:
Pay credit cards bills or utility bills, but not the Nursing Home.
Sign your name but don't write POA after your signature
Sign your name but don't write GUARDIAN after your signature.
Fail to sign over the entire SS check to the nursing home or refuse to make them representative payee.
Gift away the car / house / stocks / savings or anything with market value.
Pay yourself without a written contract for care or board.
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Diane, one thing you can do is file a complaint against the nursing home. I don't know which agency in Texas has the power to accept complaints, so you'll have to do some research. There may also be some care ombudsman agencies that you contact to see if there's any help for you.

When you contact these agencies, you can also advise them of your complaint against the nursing home and that they "broke his hip" but be very certain that your allegations are supported by facts, dates, and people involved.

Have they involved a collection agency yet? If not, and if they do, make sure you respond in 30 days advising that the debt is not yours and you're not responsible. If you don't respond, under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act the debt will be assumed to be valid.

It wouldn't hurt to file a fraud report with one of the 3 credit reporting agencies (I don't remember offhand which is the best to file with, as 2 of them tried to charge the last time I filed a 90 day fruad alert). You'll get an initial acknowledgement which offers the opportunity to get copies of your credit report from all 3 agencies. Do that, then notify them of the dispute and state that it's contested. If I recall correctly, that's supposed to be noted on your credit file.

Sorry to learn you're having such a rough time with them, but appreciate your sharing as it's a wake-up call as to what can happen.
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READ all documents thoroughly before signing anything. My uncle was placed in a rehab facility after an illness. He was unable to sign any paperwork so I signed him in. I told the facility at the time that I was not responsible for him, did not have POA or any other responsibility. But, because I signed the papers, the facility is now coming after me for the $740 that Medicare would not pay. I have spoken to a lawyer and several other financial advisors. According to them, because I signed the papers, I can be held liable. I promise you I am not paying, they are threating to ruin my credit but I am still not paying something I am not responsible for. When my uncle died he was living on a very small disability and home care from Medicare. He left no money. What frustrates me is that they knew this when they admitted him. Besides all this, they broke his hip which landed him in the hospital where he had surgery. Two weeks later he died from sepsis! Did I sue? No Am I thinking of suing Yes!
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DaveIFM, you are alluding to filial responsibility laws and estate recovery, which varies state by states. Try paelderlaw/new-hampshire-limits-responsibility-of-children-for-parents-care-costs-children-still-liable-in-pa/ and trustbuilders.com/lawyer/2014/02/20/Estate-Planning/Filial-Responsibility-Laws_bl11722.htm - and yes, this may call for elder law consultation.
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helpinJersey, have you gone through all the papers and accounts you can find? called around, gone online, etc.? It is a lot of work but the more you find the shorter the penalty period will be. Wish this was easier.
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