Parents are used to financially supporting their minor-age children. However, most adults don't give a second thought to the possibility of being legally obligated to support their parents.
Welcome to the topic of filial support laws. These laws impose a duty upon a third party (often adult children) to support their impoverished parents or other relatives.
About half the states have filial support laws on the books. Your state doesn't have filial laws? That's no guarantee that it won't pass them tomorrow. And it doesn't matter what the law is today - but what the law is when your parent needs long term care.
Have your parents done a great job financial planning - including serious attention to exactly how they will pay for an extended long term care event? If yes, congratulations, you most likely need not worry about filial support laws! If you know your parents haven't planned well - or you're not sure - you will want to continue reading.
Laws vs. obligations and desires
Of course, filial laws are...laws. There are many children who - without the law intervening - want to help parents in their hour of need. Those children face a choice: provide unpaid care (often called informal care), pay for care (professional or paid care), or a combination of both.
A twist on who pays the premiums
This desire to help has given rise to a special type of insurance financing. Instead of waiting for care to be needed, some children are paying the premiums today for long term care insurance policies on their parents. For these adult children, it's a matter of paying an affordable premium bill today instead of facing potentially catastrophic care bills down the road.
In the news
USA Today reported on one such situation in its March 26, 2018 article "How to Figure Out Elder Care for your Aging Parent." Forty-year-old T.J. Mancuso recalled seeing his mother deal with being a full-time caregiver to his father. "Knowing that we couldn't do anything for my dad, I was like, 'let's do something for mom,' " Mancuso says. So he and his wife Erica purchased a long-term care policy for his mother. "I'd rather spend money on a monthly premium today," Mancuso says. "Maybe she'll never need it, but I know what I'm spending monthly today is probably what a day or two of help would be down the road."
On a personal note
In 1999, I purchased a Long Term Care policy for my mom in Florida and have been paying the premiums ever since. Although Mom was young and healthy, I was concerned about how my brothers and I would be able to take care of her, if her health changed. We are all long distance and full time care would require a lot of funds that Mom doesn't have. As Mom is now aging, the coverage has taken on new meaning and gives us incredible peace of mind to know that if the day comes, she will be well cared for without undue stress on our family.
I would urge anyone to consider this strategy for someone they love.
Brigitte Bromberg, MS, CFP®, CSA® is an independent insurance specialist who provides unbiased, consultative, solutions for long term care, life and disability insurance needs.
For more than 30 years Brigitte has worked diligently to provide clients the information and insight they need to make informed insurance decisions. President of Winning Strategies Group LLC, Brigitte loves speaking to groups, and she also loves helping people implement creative, smart insurance strategies.