Filial responsibility is a legal concept in which an adult child is financially responsible for their parents’ unpaid healthcare costs. Not all states have filial responsibility laws, and not all families are liable. In our guide, What is Filial Responsibility, we dive into an explanation of when these laws can possibly apply. In short, an individual could have filial responsibility if they have the means to pay for their parents’ unpaid long-term case bills, when their parents are not covered by Medicaid but do not have the financial means to pay for them.
In truth, no one really wants to be sued for another person’s bills, even if it’s for family. That’s why you’ll want to find out what states have filial responsibility, and if it’s something that you need to watch out for.
How Many States Have Filial Responsibility Laws?
There are currently 29 states that have filial responsibility laws, but the number of participating states continues to change. For instance, Maryland repealed their statutes relating to filial responsibility as recently as 2007, bringing the number down from 30 to 29. Because not all states have laws relating to filial responsibility, it is necessary to find out whether they apply in the state you live in.
What US States Have Filial Responsibility Laws?
Because not all states have laws relating to filial responsibility, it is necessary to find out whether they apply in the state you live in.
Here are the 29 states that currently have statutes relating to filial responsibility:
Further, states that do have filial responsibility law vary in their guidelines. Not only do you want to know whether these laws apply to you, you’ll want to understand the extent at which they can hold you personally liable for your parent’s unpaid bills.
Alaska Statutes Sec. 25.20.030, “Duty of Parent and Child to Maintain Each Other” states that “each parent is bound to maintain the parent's children when poor and unable to work to maintain themselves. Each child is bound to maintain the child's parents in like circumstances.”
AR Code § 20-47-106 (2017), “Liability for Support” appears to apply to state mental health services. An individual who could be held legally liable for the “support, care, or maintenance” of an individual is also liable for the costs of their mental health services if:
That individual cannot pay for the services
The services aren’t covered by a policy insurance or other source of coverage
The legally liable individual is able to pay
CA Fam Code § 4400 (2018) “Support of Parents” makes adult children responsible for supporting “a parent who is in need and unable to maintain himself or herself by work.” However, the law states that this applies unless “otherwise provided by law.”
CT Gen Stat § 46b-215 (2015) “Relatives Obliged to Furnish Support” states that an individual who “neglects or refuses to furnish reasonably necessary support” to a parent who is younger than 65 can be found guilty nonsupport and could be imprisoned up to one year, unless proven otherwise.
Delaware Statute Title 13 Chapter 5 § 503 “Duty to Support a Poor Person” states, “the duty to support a poor person unable to support himself/herself rests upon the spouse, parents, or children, in that order.” If the relative in line cannot support them, then the next-in-line relatives should contribute relative to their financial resources. In this case, the individual’s spouse and parents come first before any adult children.
GA Code § 36-12-3 (2020) “Duty of Relatives to Support Paupers Generally; Right of County to Recover From Relatives for Provisions Furnished” states that the “father, mother, or child” must provide support to any “pauper.” The county reserves the right to pursue repayment accordingly if relatives refuse to pay.
Idaho Statute Title 32 §32-1002 “Parent and Child Duties of Reciprocal Support” states that the father, mother, and child(ren) of any poor person is responsible to “maintain” this individual to the “extent of his or her ability.” Further, county commissioners are able to bring a civil suit against these individuals to recover the amount spent on aid provided under indigent laws.
IN Code § 31-16-17-1 (2017) “Duty to furnish support for parents” states that any child “whose father or mother provided the individual with necessary food, shelter, clothing, medical attention, and education until the individual reached sixteen (16) years of age; and (2) who is financially able due to the individual's own property, income, or earnings; shall contribute to the support of the individual's parents if either parent is financially unable to furnish the parent's own necessary food, clothing, shelter, and medical attention.”
IA Code § 252.2 (2014) “Parents and Children Liable” under the chapter “Support for the Poor” states that the parents and child(ren) of a “poor” individual (who cannot maintain themselves through paid work) is liable for relieving or maintaining that person. They can do so “jointly or severally.”
KY Rev Stat § 530.050 (2015) creates two different types of nonsupport, which are basic nonsupport and flagrant nonsupport. The first type assigns the duty to an adult child to provide support if they reasonably can to an indigent parent. The penalty for violating this law is a misdemeanor. The punishment increases to seven days in jail and then at least thirty days in jail for multiple offenses. Further, an individual over the age of 18 with a parent who is destitute and unable to support themselves has a duty to support that parent.
LA Rev Stat § 13:4731 “Alimony for support from children or grandchildren” provides that an individual in need may seek alimony from children or grandchildren, enforceable by the law. Further, both parents and adult children have the responsibility to provide financial support for basic life necessities if they are proved to have sufficient income.
MA Gen L ch 273 § 20 “Neglect or refusal to support parent” states that an individual over the age of 18 will be fined $200, and even imprisonment of one year, if they refuse to provide to support their parent in need if they reasonably can.
MS Code § 43-31-25 (2018) “Certain relatives bound to support pauper; liability of deceased pauper’s estate,” states that all descendants of any individual who is unable to support themselves through work is required to provide financial support. If a relative who can reasonably provide support refuses, they are fined $150 to the county each month, for each month that the relative was in a home. The descendants also may be sued by the county or state to repay for support or services provided by the government.
MT Code § 40-6-214 “Reciprocal duties of parents and children in maintaining each other” states, “It is the duty of the father, the mother, and the children of any poor person who is unable to maintain himself by work to maintain such person to the extent of their ability. The promise of an adult child to pay for necessaries previously furnished to such parent is binding.”
The Nevada Code regarding public welfare and indigent persons, Section 70 is titled “Responsibility of relative and recipient of aid for hospitalization provided by county: Reimbursement of county; determination of financial responsibility; action to enforce collection.” It is unique in the sense that a child only has filial liability for their parent if they had a written agreement to pay for their care, as well as only if the child has control and access over their parent’s assets. Even if they have sufficient income to pay for their parents’ care, they don’t necessarily have to if there was no initial agreement.
NH Rev Stat § 167:2 (2017) “Liability for Support; Recovery” requires the relatives of a person to support that individual when they are in need. More specifically, this is applied when the relative’s “weekly income is more than sufficient to provide a reasonable subsistence compatible with decency and health.” New Hampshire’s code includes one’s step-parents by law. Refusal to pay could result in 60 to 90 days of prison as well as requirement to pay the assistance that is being refused.
New Jersey has several statutes that touch on filial responsibility, which are Sections 44:4-100, 44:4-101 and 44:4-102. The first enables the state to determine whether an individual has relatives from whom they can pursue financial assistance. The second clarifies that any individual who is identified will be ordered to provide assistance for “the poor person or child,” with an opportunity to appeal. The last section discusses what should happen if the individual fails to complete the order. The state can take action to “recover any sum of money due for relief, support and maintenance.”
North Carolina General Statutes §14‑326.1 titled “Parents; failure to support” clarifies that adult children with sufficient income “after reasonably providing for his or her own immediate family” will have consequences for refusing to support their parent(s) who are unable to reasonably support themselves. The consequences include Class 1 and 2 misdemeanors.
North Dakota Century Code §14‑09-10 titled “Reciprocal duty of support for health services- Support of poor” states that “each parent and every adult child of an adult who is unable to support oneself shall maintain that adult to the extent of the ability of each.” In other words, parents and adult children have filial responsibility to one another. The statute also provides definitions of when a creditor can or cannot seek financial recovery.
Ohio Revised Code § 2919.21 “Nonsupport or contributing to nonsupport of dependents” states that “no person shall abandon, or fail to provide adequate support to” their underaged child as well as the “person's aged or infirm parent or adoptive parent, who from lack of ability and means is unable to provide adequately for the parent's own support.” Further, the person cannot refuse to provide support when ordered by court decree. The penalty for abandonment is determined on a case-by-case basis.
OR Rev Stat § 109.010 (2013) “Duty of Support” keeps it straightforward with the following provision: “Parents are bound to maintain their children who are poor and unable to work to maintain themselves; and children are bound to maintain their parents in like circumstances.”
Pennsylvania is due special heedance, as they are the only state in the past 25 years to have enforced their filial responsibility laws. 23 PA Cons Stat § 4603 (2016) states that an indigent person must be supported by their spouse, their child, or their parent. The 2012 court case Health Care & Retirement Corporation of America v. Pittas resulted in an adult child paying their parent’s nursing home fees adding up to over one hundred thousand dollars.
Rhode Island General Laws Chapter 15-10 “Support of Parents” sections 1 through 7 address the filial responsibility of an adult child to their parent(s). These sections address the penalty if an individual “unreasonably neglects” their parents in need, as well as additional stipulations. Similar to the laws in other states, an individual who is responsible for an indigent parent is expected to support them as they reasonably can. A nursing care facility is also allowed legally to recover nursing care costs from this person who is obligated to provide support to the patient. The penalty is a $200 find and/or imprisonment for up to a year, plus the recovered cost of care.
SD Codified L § 25-7-27 (2017) “Adult child's duty to support parent when necessary” defines an adult child’s legal obligation to provide care to a destitute parent. Care includes “food, clothing, shelter, and medical attendance” for a parent in need. However, in South Dakota, this adult child is legally entitled to be notified before they can be held responsible for this duty. They are also liable for contributing to their parent’s care.
Tennessee Code § 71-5-115 “Financial responsibility of relative” merely states, “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.” The filial responsibility law isn’t made as clear in other states, leaving much up to interpretation.
UT Code § 17-14-2 (2016) “Support of Poor by Relatives” clarifies the order in which relatives are held liable for the support of the indigent relative in question. The law establishes that when a parent is in need, the child will be “the first called upon” to support their parent. The next-in-line relatives include the parent’s parents, siblings, and then grandparents.
Vermont Statutes § 15-5-202 “Penalty for desertion or nonsupport” addresses the penalties that may be assessed when an individual is found to have deserted or refused to support a relative in need, including spouses and adult children. An adult child who unreasonably neglects a parent in need could be imprisoned for up to two years and/or fined up to $300.00.
VA Code § 20-88 (2021) “Support of parents by children” states that each child over the age of eighteen has a joint responsibility to provide assistance in the “support and maintenance” of their parents if they are in need. That is, if they have “sufficient earning capacity or income” after providing for their own immediate family. The penalty for failing or refusing to provide support is a fine of $500 and 12 months in jail.
WV Code § 9-5-9 (2002 through Reg Sess) “Liability of relatives for support” states that individuals with reasonable ability have the duty to support an indigent relative. The manner and extent to which they shall pay for burial expenses is determined by the Department of Welfare. The order of relatives held liable is as follows: children, father, brothers and sisters, mother.
Understand How Filial Responsibility Works in Your State
This guide provided an overview of how filial responsibility works, as well as what states have filial responsibility. There are currently 29 states that provide a statute pertaining to an adult child’s duty to provide reasonable support to a parent who is in need.
Because these laws vary from state to state, it’s important to understand how filial responsibility works in the state you live in. There are variances in who can be held liable and when, in what scenarios, penalties, and the manner in which nursing care facilities can pursue repayment.
The bottom line, however, is that most states will rule that adult children have a duty to provide reasonable care and support for their parents. If that parent cannot reasonably provide for themselves, the child is expected to step in and provide that support, as long as they can reasonably do so after taking care of their own immediate family. If not, long-term care fees that remain unpaid can lead to serious consequences, including fines or even imprisonment. Last but not least, these laws often give the nursing care facility or other institution the legal agency to seek repayment through garnishments, collections, and the like. They may even take it out of the patient’s estate, thus decreasing the value of the child’s inheritance.
This serves as a good reminder to have transparent conversations with your loved ones regarding retirement and estate planning. If you are an adult child with aging parents, it is a wise idea to check in with them and inquire regarding their plan to pay for long-term care and whether they expect any financial support from you if needed. It is best to work as a team to create a financial strategy today, so as to prevent getting an ugly surprise tomorrow. Further, all parties should ensure that their Estate Plans are in line with their state’s filial responsibility laws. Check out how to create a Trust online through Trust & Will to provide as much protection as possible for your family’s assets and property.
Is there a question here we didn’t answer? Reach out to us today or Chat with a live member support representative!
Trust & Will is an online service providing legal forms and information. We are not a law firm and we do not provide legal advice.