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Tennessee Filial Responsibility Rules

In some states, the law states that if a parent is unable to care for themselves and pay their own medical bills, the children are responsible for the costs of care. This is what is known as filial responsibility, and it affects children of parents that reside in 29 different states across the country, including Tennessee.

Until recently, many of the filial responsibility laws were mainly ignored and unused; however, with the millions of Baby Boomers entering their twilight years healthcare companies and care facilities are using these long-forgotten rules to force the children of their patients to pay for care.

Tennessee Filial Responsibility Law

Under the welfare rules of Tennessee law, Section 71-5-115 states that “To the extent permitted by federal law, the department may require or permit that responsible parties of a recipient of medical assistance supplement or reimburse for any benefit or benefits rendered to the recipient pursuant to this part.” In addition, another section of the law states that “responsible parties” is defined as “the following representatives and relatives of recipients of medical assistance pursuant to this part who are not financially eligible to receive benefits under this part: parents, spouses, children, and guardians.”

Increasing Filial Responsibility Lawsuits

With long-term care costs on the rise and funding for elderly care being cut, more healthcare providers are turning to the courts and filial responsibility laws to compel the children of their patients to help their parent financially or completely cover the cost of care. In the last couple of years, multiple court cases have held that filial responsibility laws are still valid, and children can be sued to recover medical expenses.

Proving Filial Responsibility

Every state requires that the court find that the parent is indigent or completely unable to provide for his or her own support before invoking filial responsibility laws. In addition, the court must find that the parent primarily resides in the state that has a filial responsibility law on record. The child does not need to also reside in the state in order to be liable.

However, there are also defenses as a child to claims of filial responsibility. For example, if the child is also unable to pay, if there is evidence of abuse or neglect by the parent, or if the parent abandoned the child then the filial responsibility is invalidated.

States impose different penalties under their filial responsibility laws. Some states impose only financial liability and force the children to pay the cost of their parent’s medical bills. Other states also invoke criminal penalties if the child does not pay for the costs of care. In Tennessee, the law allows for a healthcare provider to collect costs from a child up to what the federal government will allow.

Call a Nashville Estate Planning Attorney

If you, your siblings, or your parents have questions regarding how filial responsibility may affect them or have any other questions regarding estate planning law in the Nashville area, the experienced attorneys at Calhoun Law, PLC can help. Call or contact the office today for a free and confidential consultation of your case.

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