Michael S. Simone, Esq.
You have been named power of attorney for a loved one who needs nursing home care.
You are now responsible for making decisions about their finances and medical care, but you may be wondering, am I personally responsible for paying their nursing home bills?
The answer is generally no, but it depends on each person’s situation.
Below is key information to know regarding your rights and responsibilities as an agent and how you can get help for your loved one.
By law, durable power of attorney agents are responsible for handling financial matters for the principal (the person who gave you power of attorney).
However, this role does not make you personally liable for the principal’s financial situation as long as you sign as Power of Attorney and you did not do anything improper with the principal’s funds. Your job is to use their assets, when necessary, to pay bills on their behalf.
If there is not sufficient funds to cover the expenses of the principal, you are not required to access your private funds to pay any bills of the principal as long as you properly and clearly signed documents as Power of Attorney, and you did not do anything improper with the principal’s funds. As a financial power of attorney, you have the duty to act in the principal’s best interest.
Under New Jersey Law, you have the power to:
Nursing homes can not generally pursue family members or power of attorney agents for unpaid nursing home bills in New Jersey. Pennsylvania is different since there are financial? l responsibility laws that do invoke potential liability against the children of a parent who is in a nursing home.
Federal laws prohibit nursing homes from attempting to hold third parties financially responsible for their resident’s bills. By the same token, they cannot just throw nursing home residents out on the street without proper notice or due diligence.
Where some agents get confused is that the nursing home may have required you to sign a contract saying you would pay for the services. As the power of attorney or personal representative, you do not have personal financial liability for the principal unless you sign documentation accepting this liability.
Average nursing home costs for New Jersey residents are $11,254 monthly for a semi-private room and $12,151 for private rooms—over $3,000 more per month than the national average. If you have a family member who needs nursing home care but can’t keep up with rising costs, you have options.
Medicaid is a health insurance program for people with limited income and resources. It is funded by both state and federal governments, helping needy individuals afford medical bills and prescription drugs. Another great benefit of the program is that it covers nursing home care for people who meet certain income eligibility requirements.
If your loved one meets those requirements and has few assets, you may be able to apply on their behalf. However, in our years of experience, we’ve realized that getting Medicaid benefits can prove more difficult than you’d expect.
For that reason, many powers of attorney agents opt to work with an elder law attorney for guidance. We can help your loved one become Medicaid eligible, so you can stress less and sleep better knowing preparations for the future have been made.
In most cases, Medicaid will cover the costs of care, and you can avoid the back and forth by applying as soon as the principal begins receiving care. However, it is a very prolonged process with a short retroactive period. As a result, a timely application is needed to ensure the entire time period is covered while at a skilled nursing or assisted living facility.
Worried your loved one will not qualify? Our experienced elder law attorneys can work with you to devise a plan that benefits everyone.
The bottom line: Please reach out to The Simone Law Firm today so we can help properly plan prior to your loved one entering an assisted living or skilled nursing care facility or if a loved one is already in a facility, how to properly navigate the Medicaid process.
Call now to schedule your consultation.
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