Having power of attorney for an elderly relative in a nursing home doesn’t make you responsible for their bills.
However, there are instances when nursing homes may still try to make you pay.
In this article, we’ll explain the basic rules about having the authority to make decisions for someone and whether you have to pay for their nursing home costs.
What is Power of Attorney?
A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that lets one person give another person the authority to make decisions for them.
The person given this authority is called the “attorney-in-fact,” and they have to make choices in the best interest of the person who gave them the power.
There are different types of POAs—some allow the attorney-in-fact to do specific things, while others give them more freedom.
If you have a power of attorney from your elderly parent or friend, it probably means you can help them with different legal and money-related things, like signing contracts or opening a bank account.
Who is Responsible for Nursing Home Bills?
When you put your elderly parent in a nursing home, it can be tough emotionally.
Besides feeling guilty, it’s also expensive, costing around $105,850 a year in the U.S.
But the rules say only the person living in the nursing home is responsible for paying the bills. The nursing home can’t make the family members pay as a condition for admission.
This usually means adult children don’t have to worry about the costs, except in a few special cases.
The special cases include:
1. Liability as “Responsibility Party”
In some nursing home agreements, family members may be named the “responsible party” for the elderly resident.
Although the responsible party isn’t directly liable for the nursing bills, they have to make sure the elderly person can pay.
If the resident runs out of money, the responsible person might need to apply for Medicaid.
If they don’t, the nursing home can sue them for breaking the agreement.
In a case from 2015, a son was sued because he didn’t apply for Medicaid for his mom. The court said he could be held responsible.
In a 2023 case, a son was questioned about being responsible for costs because he didn’t sign the responsible party agreement again for his dad.
2. Filial Responsibility Laws
In about half of the states in the U.S., there are rules saying grown-up kids need to take care of their elderly parents, providing things like medical care, food, and a place to live.
But these rules only apply if the parents can’t get help from Medicaid.
Even though these rules are in place in 30 states, they hardly ever make the adult children actually do these things.
That’s because most parents who can’t pay for their care can get help from Medicaid, so the rules aren’t needed much.
Is Power of Attorney Responsible for Nursing Home Bills?
That’s not true.
Just having power of attorney doesn’t mean you’re personally responsible for their money matters, like nursing home costs.
It’s important for people to know this so they don’t avoid taking on power of attorney, thinking they’ll be stuck with medical bills.
The Estate Is Responsible for Nursing Home Bills
While the power of attorney isn’t accountable for nursing home bills, the deceased person’s estate must still settle the owed money.
Power of Attorney and Nursing Home Bills
It’s important to know that having a power of attorney doesn’t mean you’re liable for the debts of the person you’re helping.
Even if you sign contracts for them, like for a nursing home, it’s not your responsibility—it’s theirs.
If you’re the power of attorney for an elderly person, the nursing home may ask you to use their money to pay bills. Importantly, they can’t make you personally responsible or force you to pay from your own funds.
There are rules that stop nursing homes from making you pay out of your own pocket. If you have power of attorney, all they can do is ask you to use the person’s money to pay the bills.
The Bottom Line
When assisting an older family member with power of attorney, you typically aren’t responsible for their nursing home bills.
Although nursing homes may request payment from you, the primary responsibility usually rests with the resident.
The article covers the power of attorney types, nursing home bill rules, and cases where family members might be accountable. I
It emphasizes that having power of attorney usually doesn’t mean you pay nursing home costs but the resident.