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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I was POA for my dad. We waited for Medicaid approval for months while he was in a nursing home. He too had unpaid bills. I was never held liable for any of his debt nor was I ever on the hook for his bill at the nursing home. He died before his Medicaid was approved. And while I was sent a bill from the nursing home after he died I never paid it and it's never been an issue. It was just a money grab from the nursing home.

As long as you didn't sign anything stating that you will be responsible for the bill at the facility if she is unable to pay you'll be fine.

As guardian you are responsible to disperse your MIL's monies to satisfy outstanding debts and for her board and care but you would do that with her money and not yours.
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DPOA terms usually provide that the attorney-in-fact cannot be held liable for actions carrying out the terms of the DPOA, but those clauses are carefully worded.

I would read the DPOA carefully - especially if it was an online form that someone downloaded.

As to the bills, my understanding is the same as Eyerishlass, that unless you agreed, personally and not as attorney-in-fact, that you are not liable for them.

However, another member, Pam Stegman, raised an important issue on another post, which is filial responsibility, holding some adult children responsbible for aspects of their parents' care.

After reading Pam's post, I did some research, the results of which were unsettling in terms of responsibility for parental care.

You might want to Google "filial responsiblity (your state) to determine if this is even an issue. If your state has adopted it, I think I would do as much research as I can on case law holdings, then contact an attorney for clarficiation.

I don't know whether filial responsibility might be applicable for actions INITIATED before you and your wife acquired guardianship, or whether it would come into play if funds are exhausted eventually. That's well beyond my limited scope of knowledge and a question for an attorney.

My experience with guardianships is also from a different perspective, that of working for attorneys who handled guardianship proceedings, so I'm not familiar with individual financial liability other than to have seen that guardians are expected to use the funds of the person over whom they have guardianship.

Does the order of appointment address this issue, including options if funds are exhausted?

I won't even try to answer the issue of interim responsibility pending Medicaid qualification, but leave that to Igloo who's the resident expert.
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What does that mean, they allow State govt. to recover all expenses paid for Medicaid related expenses from children? If we could afford it to begin with the parent wouldn't need Medicaid!
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Go up to the Money and Legal tab and click on POA & Guardianship. Also go to state specific info at
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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As POA you are spending funds for the benefit of the elder. As long as you are keeping a record, I think that should suffice. Elder monies can not be used to purchase things for the adult child or their children's benefit--it must be necessary spending to meet the needs of the elder.

Medicare will pay for needed rehab up to 120 days not Medicaid. However, once it is deemed she is not requiring rehab, she either goes home or if a placement is needed for nursing home, then she would need to spend down all that she owns basically. Medicaid does not pay for nursing homes while the elder has financial assets, only after they have been exhausted or spent.

Giving the price of good nursing homes for private pay, she will run through her assets very quickly. People start paperwork for the Medicaid program (medical care for the poor) once the elder is placed and it is assumed they will end their days in the nursing home. Then you have to find a nursing home which is acceptable to you and which accepts Medicaid patients. Most nursing homes accept some Medicaid patients but they prefer private pay as they make more money with private pay.

Sorry to hear of the father's passing. I am guessing he was the caregiver for the mother. I would get a medical opinion from MIL doctor as to whether with home health aides she needs a NH. If she can be cared for home, a. she will probably prefer it, b. it is normally cheaper than private pay nursing homes. Plus if she is under 85 years, it may be too early for a nursing home placement if she does not suffer from a known life ending disease like cancer. If she is just having age related problems, she should be able to be supported in the home.

You have the power to bring her home from rehab, get supportive therapies (OT, PT from Medicare) and hire a live in or HHA for a few hours a day if she
is capable of being left alone for parts of the day or evenings. The MIL's personal doctor should be able to advise you on her progress.

However, even if you get her placed in a NH, she will continue to need your help. So I would investigate home care ---a very last resort should be a nursing home for an unknown extended number of years. Many people rush to a nursing home out of fear but old age is what it is. Not something to be feared or run from but accept it as part of life. It can be managed at a home setting.

Good luck.
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You need an elder law attorney. Medicaid is a program that is administered by both the federal government and a state. Rules vary wildly because we have 50 states. Your state may have a law school with an elder law clinic where you can ask questions. You should also ask questions at your social services office. And yes, in person is best if you can get there. If you have a geriatric nurse practitioner program they may have navigators who can also help. Come prepared for your appointment(s) with a list of questions. You must become an advocate. Lots of places play fast and loose with rules and won't pay without someone getting after them. Such is life. Good luck.
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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 - and yes, this may call for elder law consultation.
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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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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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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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