A court in New York has held that a nursing home may sue a son for breach of contract for non-payment of his mother’s bill. The son signed the agreement as the responsible party. According to the court this made him personally liable for the bill although he doesn’t have to use his own money to pay the debt. Of course if his mom has no money, he will likely have to use his own funds. Jewish Home Lifecare v. Ast (N.Y. Sup. Ct., New York Cty., No. 161001/14, July 17, 2015).
What this means is that an adult child or agent under a power of attorney should not sign as the responsible party. I’ve been counseling clients this way for years but you have to read that nursing home or assisted living contract very carefully so that you are not personally guaranteeing payment. All too often the adult child is in fact, sued for breach of contract,, as Mr. Ast found out. Whether a Virginia, West Virginia, Florida or Texas court (the 4 states where I’m licensed) would hold the same way, I cannot say, but I’d bet that as the cost of nursing facility care goes up and as Medicaid becomes harder to obtain, nursing facilities are going to try to get their money in whatever way they can.
I’m not saying they shouldn’t be paid. They do a good and valuable service. I’m merely suggesting that adult children tread carefully so that they are not personally liable for what is likely to be a very large debt.