Filial Responsibility Laws – – Briefly

February 25, 2009

Over the past few months chatter about filial responsibility laws has been popping up on various blogs and in not just a few law journal note/commentary topics.  See the New Old Age’s thoughts here, and a medium-good law journal note (in preview unless you have  a subscription) here.  

Illinois is one of the 20 states that do not have any kind of filial responsibility law on its books.  Though it is nearly impossible to say this with any certainty, I would be surprised if more than a handful of the 30 states that do have such laws in place actually enforce them / have many lawsuits under them.  However, there is some talk in the Land of Lincoln for revisiting these traditional laws as a way of shoring up faltering Medicaid dollars.  [Of course, the economic stimulus package has quieted much of this talk, with the increase in FMAP and expedited payment structure].  I’ve had at least two conversations with family members at my facility about these laws and what they might mean for adult children of parents with modest savings.  

Because of the increased interest in such laws (either enforcing them or writing new ones) I wanted to briefly define such laws in the general case, and make a very specific point:

General Definition: Filial responsibility laws make adult children legally responsible for their parents’ financial support, including payment for their parents’ basic needs (food, shelter, clothing) as well as medical care (read here: nursing homes).  

Specific Point: Filial responsibility laws vary widely from state to state, as does the method and frequency of their enforcement.  This variance can range from simple fines for non-support, to civil remedies leveraged against children for not obeying the filial responsibility laws.  The point, as with most legal topics, is to look into the specific details of the state proposing/enforcing such laws.  

I won’t touch the subject of whether such laws, in any form, are a good idea or a bad one, but it is worth acknowledging that the pressure for Medicaid dollars is dangerously high, and having some children pay for some parental support is an often talked-about release valve.  

On a personal note, I’ve let the NHA Blog lie dormant for the past few weeks as I ramped up my studying to take the Bar exam in another jurisdiction.  (each Bar exam is state specific – – passing it in one is will not license her/him in another)  But, I took it yesterday and can now get back to writing/thinking about topics of my own choosing.

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One Response to “Filial Responsibility Laws – – Briefly”


  1. I noticed your blog and was interested in seeing if you would like to link to mine and vice versa as we both write about aging issues. .

    My blog: http://anthonyssong.blogspot.com/

    In short I am a health care expert that fell into a mission for seniors. That manifests in many ways but at the end of the day my goal is two fold – assure respect and dignity of our elders and advocate for people to learn about and make decisions about aging issues earlier in life.

    Look forward to your reply.


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