Dear Mr. Miller:
My Dad moved to an assisted living facility(ALF) in Northern California last month. I helped him with the papers and getting everything signed. The monthly fees are going to be about $8000 due to my Dad’s needs. He really doesn’t have any income to speak of. He does have about $100,000 in the bank and we will draw from that to pay the ALF. But that is only going to last about one year.
Here’s the problem: After his money runs out am I responsible for the payments out of my own funds? That would bankrupt me and my family quite quickly.
Looking Ahead Financially
Filial Responsibility: Yes and no is the answer here, so let’s delve into this a bit further. Most people are unaware that California has a filial responsibility (child responsible for the parent’s care) law at California Family Code Sec. 4400. However, before you panic there are various limitations to this law.
Legal Limitations: Another California statute indicates that that law does not apply to anyone who is on SSI (Supplemental Security Income). Unfortunately, it leaves open whether it applies for Medi-Cal benefits. (I am not aware of any case in which Medi-Cal has sought to recover for moneys paid from a child of the recipient.) Further, California passed legislation in 2016 limiting from what Medi-Cal can recover. Basically, it is now limited to the estate of the recipient (when the recipient dies) that goes through Probate. If the asset does not go through the Probate process, then, subject to a very few exceptions, Medi-Cal cannot recover from it. From a beneficiary of the recipient’s Probate estate, Medi-Cal can only recover up to the value of the property received. And a Federal Regulation indicates that a SNF (Skilled Nursing Facility) cannot require anyone to be a guarantor of the parent’s expenses. But an ALF could. So you need to take a look at what you signed!
Community Medi-Cal: After eliminating the above, we are really left talking about an ALF suing a child for unpaid bills. First, you may never even have to deal with this issue. Assuming you did not sign to be a guarantor or responsible party, you should be ok. The California Medi-Cal program as of July 1, 2022 raised its net worth limits for qualification to $130,000. That limit applies to full scope Medi-Cal but may not apply to Community Medi-Cal. Full scope is what one is on when that person is in a skilled nursing facility (SNF), but not in an ALF. The latter is covered by Community Medi-Cal. So the limit for that may be only $2000. But you will know when your Dad reaches that point. And that would be the time to apply for the Medi-Cal program that covers ALFs. So unless you ignore the problem, you should be ok.
What to Do Now: That being said, I would give us a call (760-436-8832) now, well before your Dad reaches the $2000 limit, so that we can show you how the money left can be saved and assist in getting your Dad ready for Medi-Cal application. And make sure that your Dad is in a facility that will accept Medi-Cal. You don’t want to be attempting to find a facility to place him when he has no assets left–facilities will find all sorts of reasons to decline.