Legal Question in Elder Law in Pennsylvania

How can a married couple protect their assets when a nursing home wants to sue the son for their parent's nursing home bill?

Asked on 7/24/13, 6:22 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

The nursing home can do that. PA has a law which provides that children can be held responsible for the parents' medical debts. So the son can pay or work out some kind of arrangement. It depends on what the son owns as to whether a nursing home could collect on any judgment. Going forward, if the son had a judgment against him I would make certain that he never acquires anything in his name. If he is being threatened with lawsuit now, then its probably too late for him to get assets out of his name (it would be a fraudulent transfer). Barring that, the only other way I know of is bankruptcy if the son is insolvent (his debts outweigh his assets).

The statute is below and seems to place limits on liability.

23 Pa.C.S.A. § 4603

Purdon's Pennsylvania Statutes and Consolidated Statutes Currentness

Title 23 Pa.C.S.A. Domestic Relations (Refs & Annos)

Full text of all sections at this level Part V. Support, Property and Contracts

Full text of all sections at this level Chapter 46. Support of the Indigent (Refs & Annos)

Current selection§ 4603. Relatives' liability; procedure

(a) Liability.--

(1) Except as set forth in paragraph (2), all of the following individuals have the responsibility to care for and maintain or financially assist an indigent person, regardless of whether the indigent person is a public charge:

(i) The spouse of the indigent person.

(ii) A child of the indigent person.

(iii) A parent of the indigent person.

(2) Paragraph (1) does not apply in any of the following cases:

(i) If an individual does not have sufficient financial ability to support the indigent person.

(ii) A child shall not be liable for the support of a parent who abandoned the child and persisted in the abandonment for a period of ten years during the child's minority.

(b) Amount.--

(1) Except as set forth in paragraph (2), the amount of liability shall be set by the court in the judicial district in which the indigent person resides.

(2) For medical assistance for the aged other than public nursing home care, as provided in section 401 of the act of June 13, 1967 (P.L. 31, No. 21), [FN1] known as the Public Welfare Code, the following apply:

(i) Except as set forth in subparagraph (ii), the amount of liability shall, during any 12-month period, be the lesser of:

(A) six times the excess of the liable individual's average monthly income over the amount required for the reasonable support of the liable individual and other persons dependent upon the liable individual; or

(B) the cost of the medical assistance for the aged.

(ii) The department may, by reasonable regulations, adjust the liability under subparagraph (i), including complete elimination of the liability, at a cost to the Commonwealth not exceeding those funds certified by the Secretary of the Budget as available for this purpose.

(c) Procedure.--A court has jurisdiction in a case under this section upon petition of:

(1) an indigent person; or

(2) any other person or public body or public agency having any interest in the care, maintenance or assistance of such indigent person.

(d) Contempt.--

(1) If an individual liable for support under this section fails to comply with an order under this section, the court shall schedule a contempt hearing. At the hearing, if the court determines that the individual liable for support has intentionally failed to comply with the order, the court may hold the individual in contempt of court and may sentence the individual to up to six months' imprisonment.

(2) This subsection applies regardless of whether the indigent person is confined in a public institution.

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Answered on 7/26/13, 12:10 am

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