FILIAL SUPPORT ACT
By E. Garrett Gummer, III, Esquire (CELA)
The Pennsylvania Filial Support Act permits an indigent person or any agency involved in the care of the indigent person, such as a nursing home, to make a claim against you for their care and for financial assistance if you are the spouse, the child, or the parent of the indigent person.
The amount of your liability will be determined by the court. A petition for relief under the Act can be filed by the indigent person or any other person, public body or public agency having an interest in the care, maintenance or assistance of the indigent person. If you are found liable under the Act and you fail to comply with the court order, the court can find you in contempt, and sentence you up to six months in prison.
Actions under the Filial Support Act usually, but not always, arise in the context of the indigent person as a resident of a nursing home. Typically, the parent is a resident of a nursing home, the parent makes gifts to a child within the five-year Medicaid penalty look back period and as a result, the parent is found not eligible for Medicaid benefits. Since the parent now lacks the funds to pay the nursing home privately, the nursing home institutes legal action under the Act against the child who received the gift and any other children of the parent.
If you have a family member who may need nursing home care in the near future, it is important that you seek the advice of an elder law attorney before that individual makes any gifts to you. If not, you could find yourself being sued under the Pennsylvania Filial Support Act.
Mr. Gummer is a Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA) by the National Elder Law Foundation.