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Filial responsibility

(17 Posts)
USUKLawquestion Sun 02-Aug-15 00:31:49

I wonder if you can help me. I live in the UK. My dad lives in a state in the USA which has filial responsibility laws (although not one that aggressively pursues them, so not PA or ND). Filial responsibility means that the children can be made responsible for their parents, including, say, nursing home debts. In PA recently, a nursing home sued the son of a client for $300k under FR laws and the court upheld their case.

My dad is going to be an expensive patient when he is older, for various reasons to do with not taking care of his own health. He is also financially irresponsible and in debt. He has a wife but has not been married long - it is possible she will leave him. He is not a nice man.

Anyway, I am concerned that I will somehow be made responsible for his bills in later life. Is it even possible for someone not living in the US to be held responsible in this way?

I'm not sure whether to talk to a lawyer now, or maybe an insurance company to get indemnified against the possibility of this. I understand that obviously no one can advise me specifically about the details of the non-existent case but any advice would be most welcome.

PLUtoPlanet Mon 10-Aug-15 19:27:21

Oooh, bloody hell. This is really quite something!

I wouldn't ask for advice on a mostly-UK forum. Start checking US forums and making contacts as fast as you can. You may need to have recourse to that favoured American profession...of law.... much as I'm sure you would prefer not to, given the cost! However, it could well be a sensible economy!

USUKLawquestion Wed 12-Aug-15 22:42:33

I've just seen your reply, thank you.

Yes, it is something that is worth getting sorted out, I think. Particularly since it isn't even down to the intentions of the parent but the creditor.

Going on to a US based website might be useful. Thanks.

sleeponeday Thu 13-Aug-15 00:50:02

Are you a US citizen, yourself?

USUKLawquestion Thu 13-Aug-15 10:29:19

No, I am not a US citizen and never have been. I have never lived there as an adult. But I have no real understanding of whether and how these laws apply to me.

AcrossthePond55 Thu 13-Aug-15 14:50:04

I'm in the US and worked with the elderly, but I am NOT a lawyer. Without knowing the state your father lives in, it's impossible to say. Some FR states have wording that indicates you must have some type of 'caretaker relationship' with the person, some simply indicate you must fall under the legal definition of 'responsible party' regardless of your actual relationship with the person (i.e. estranged parents/children). Your best bet would be to contact a lawyer in the state in which your father lives, one who specializes in either elder law or estate planning.

Remember too that there is government medical assistance for individuals of limited means, so your father may well qualify for Medicaid, which may pay for nursing home costs.

sleeponeday Fri 14-Aug-15 04:00:53

But if you're not a US citizen, and you live in the UK, how in the world are you liable for anything under US law? You're not subject to US law, and in the UK, we have obligations to support only our children, not parents, so there can be no reciprocal enforcement arrangements as there often are with child support because there isn't anything to reciprocate.

I can't begin to imagine how they could calculate any such payments, far less enforce them. You aren't subject to the laws of a foreign country just because your Dad lives there. confused

USUKLawquestion Sat 15-Aug-15 18:23:25

I take those points and I am of the same mind. BUT you can see why I would like to sure! Especially with news stories like this

AcrossthePond55 Sat 15-Aug-15 19:33:48

Honestly, I think cases like this will become more and more common as my generation ages. We, in whole, have much less saved up and fewer assets to carry us through, nor will most of us get huge piles of money when we sell our homes. However, most of us will qualify for government assistance. And as of now, government agencies do not fall under this law. At one time where I lived, these agencies levied a monthly 'share of cost' (means tested) to family members to pay to nursing homes in order for their parents to get assistance to pay the rest. Who knows what will happen in the future.

As of right now what is happening (very rarely) is that the nursing homes are using these laws to sue the children to force them to pay their parent's debt. Once they get a court judgement, they still have to chase the defendant for payment of the debt. It's not like a credit card debt that has 'built in' regulations for debt collection.

As to whether a nursing home would try to (or could) sue a non-citizen child living in a foreign country, who knows? I wouldn't think they'd bother. However, there are debt collection companies operating in both the UK and USA. These companies 'buy' debt for pennies on the dollar (or pound) and then try to collect the debt themselves. I'd say that would be your worse fear.

As I've said, see a solicitor. Also, if occasion arises, never, and I repeat NEVER sign any medical forms for your father nor ever verbally agree to seeing that a bill gets paid. Since you don't live here, that probably won't arise for you.

USUKLawquestion Sat 15-Aug-15 21:08:07

Acrossthepond Exactly! And say my father lives another fifteen years, it might be really very common by then.... so I want to protect myself.

RedDaisyRed Sat 15-Aug-15 21:56:36

I get these things asked all the time about laws in other countries. The UK and US do not have reciprocal recognition of each other's laws and only have extradition where you commit a crime which is the same or similar in each country. I fyou have no assets and are not in the US then even if a court in the US ordered you to pay they could not do what is called "enforce" it unless you came to the US

AcrossthePond55 Sat 15-Aug-15 22:03:10

You know, part of the problem was created by greed and 'entitlement'. In my former career I saw numerous cases of children who could easily afford to assist their parents 'dumping' their parents on the state, and also wealthy parents who would transfer 6 or 7 figure assets to their children and then go on state assistance to 'preserve their children's inheritance'. There was also a large problem of people bringing their parents over from foreign countries and signing them up for assistance. In many cases, we found that these parents had significant assets overseas. Rules have been tightened up to prevent this and modern computer cross-matching helps discover it, but I'm sure it still exists. It's situations like this that have brought these laws back into usage.

As usual, the innocent must suffer because of the guilty.

AcrossthePond55 Sat 15-Aug-15 22:09:35

Not entirely true in these cases, Daisy. It's not criminal law in this case, it's civil law.

As I mentioned before, this law would result in a US civil judgement against the non-citizen. The law will not help the plaintiff collect, but the plaintiff can sell the debt to a debt collection company that operates in both the US and the UK. That company transfers or 'sells' the debt to its UK branch of operations and 'voila' you now have a debt collectable in the UK.

Would it be likely to happen? No. But that's not to say it's impossible.

Pico2 Sat 15-Aug-15 22:20:22

I wonder whether getting some sort of court order against you, even in civil court, would cause you problems if you then wanted to travel to the US.

sleeponeday Sun 16-Aug-15 00:16:24

Across I don't think there would be anything a debt collection company could do, because they would not be able to obtain a judgement in an English, Welsh or Scottish court enforcing the debt, because under our laws the OP would not be liable.

Child maintenance payments are often payable internationally if a reciprocal agreement exists, because there are mutual recognition agreements made between various nations, as there are interests on both sides served. I just don't see any way that would be applicable here.

I would be astonished to hear that a civil debt not entered into by a citizen of this country, and not their problem according to the laws here either, could ever be enforced.

Whether it could cause issues if you went to the States, I don't know. I doubt it, because I doubt any nursing home would bother trying to sue you in your absence for a debt that you aren't liable for under your own national laws. It's not free, litigation, and they have no realistic prospect of getting any money.

AcrossthePond55 Sun 16-Aug-15 00:36:44

That may be true sleep. All I know is that a US business (like a hospital or retail store) can sell a debt to a multinational debt collection agency and that agency can collect it in any country they legally operate in. I expect the majority of time it happens is for credit card or medical debt. As to UK debt collection laws, I have no idea if they'd consider a US court judgement stating that someone is liable for a debt to be valid in the UK.

OP really needs to talk to a specialist solicitor, someone knowledgeable about international debt collection.

USUKLawquestion Sun 16-Aug-15 08:27:18

Reddaisy re your first post, what I a) DO have assets and b) want to travel to the US to, for instance, see my unwell father?

I emailed a lawyer in the state he resides in, and they said that the law is archaic in their state and not a civil law but criminal and has seen little use. So, so far so good.

But I may take further action of some kind.

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