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How a parent's medical debt can affect their children

Adult children with ailing or recently deceased parents may wonder if they can be held liable for any of their parents' unpaid medical bills. More than half of the states have laws in place regarding this issue known as filial responsibility laws.  According to Forbes, these laws state that if a court finds that a parent is unable to pay their own medical bills or care for themselves, his or her children may be responsible for covering the costs of care. Tennessee is one of those states.

While historically states often have not enforced these filial responsibility laws, some recent court cases suggest that enthusiasm in their favor is growing. Traditionally, Medicaid paid a large percentage of long-term care costs for aging residents. Restrictions on Medicaid in recent years, combined with the filial responsibility laws in place in some states, have led health care institutions to pursue payment from patients' children as a means of collecting debt.

This issue is looming large these days, as life expectancy is increasing, the cost of long-term care is increasing and available funding is decreasing. According to CNN Money, in many cases a deceased parent's estate will be on the hook for any outstanding hospital, nurshing home or medical bills.

This can still greatly impact that parent's children though, in two different ways. If the estate does not have enough to cover the full amount, a child may then become directly responsible for the balance. Even if the estate can cover the full amount of the costs, the amount of the child's inheritance may then be significantly decreased.

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