Filial Piety ~ what is it and what are the implications?

A friend recently mentioned this term to me and was concerned what it meant for elderly parents and their offspring — especially when there was a possibility of medical bills and long term care. So I did a bit of research and figured this is as good a topic as any, while this is not specific to strokes it covers a wide range of conditions.

According to the online Merriam-Webster dictionary, Filial Piety (known as pinyin: xiào in Chinese) is: “reverence for parents considered in Chinese ethics the prime virtue and the basis of all right human relations”’ ideally this is not only respecting the parents but also accepting responsibility for them as they age.

My friend’s concern was that she could inadvertently put a serious debt onto her children’s shoulders simply because she had given birth to them. So I did a little research…

I went to for information. Here is some of what was said, you can click the link if you want to read it in entirety: “More than half of the states have “filial responsibility” laws that make adult children responsible for their parents’ medical care, if their parents can’t pay.   These rules do not apply when a patient qualifies for Medicare – in that case, the Medicare system pays.   However, if a patient can’t pay for care received before qualifying for Medicare, filial responsibility laws could require the patient’s child or children to pay … In most states, for a child to be held accountable for a parent’s bill, all of these things would have to be true: The parent received care in a state that has a filial responsibility law; The parent did not qualify for Medicaid when receiving care; The parent does not have the money to pay the bill; The child has the money to pay the bill; The caregiver chooses to sue the child.” (* the Filial Piety law is based on the PARENT'S state of residence; there are presently 28 U.S. states that have Filial Responsibility rules.)

There is more information about this responsibility on another site, in mind that Medicaid does not require the recipient’s children to contribute funds toward the parent’s care. Instead, the state will try to recover benefit costs though the recipient’s estate once they pass away (e.g. a home, car, etc.). So, the possible application of the filial responsibility law is only where the parent for some reason does not qualify for Medicaid, yet is admitted and does not pay their nursing home bill.”  

One thing to be aware of though, joint assets MAY be targeted if the state tries to recoup funds AFTER the Medicaid recipient passes away. Things like joint bank accounts and property may get tapped, there are some exclusions. “Joint ownership of a home and a financial account under both names fall under these circumstances, which is why it is very important for families to consult with attorneys when applying for Medicaid, placing assets under certain names and setting up trusts.”

As stated earlier in this blog, this is NOT legal or medical advice, my postings are the result of research (sources cited)  — if you have any questions or concerns about your fiscal responsibility or how to protect your children after your death, speak to an Elder Law or Estate Attorney who is familiar with your state's laws.

For more reading: 

How the Medicaid Estate Recovery Program Works

How Joint Bank Accounts and Property Affect Medicaid Eligibility
 What Is the Law for Beneficiary Designation for Bank Accounts?

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