There is a lot of false information out there about your responsibilities signing an admission agreement into a nursing home, on behalf of someone else.  So, does signing an admission agreement really put you on the hook for someone else’s nursing home bills?

It’s important to either read the admission agreement carefully, or have at attorney read it, because it’s all in the language of the admission agreement.  Most admission agreements define what role you are assuming when you sign.  Usually, there is a role where you are agreeing to use the nursing home patient’s money to pay the bills but are not actually assuming financial responsibility yourself.  This is frequently, though not always, called the responsible person.

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Then there might be a separate statement or role regarding assuming financial responsibility yourself for that person’s bills.  Usually, though not always, this is called a guarantor.

Being the responsible person does NOT make you the guarantor.

Now, there are a lot of stories out there of people who only signed up to be a responsible person and got sued for the patient’s nursing home bill.  But there are often some details missing from these stories that could explain that there is another reason for a lawsuit.  For example, if you were acting as a power of attorney for that nursing home patient and did not properly pay the nursing home and gave money to the persons kids or to yourself, you did not follow the rules of being a power of attorney agent, and so someone could sue you because of that.

Another even more common example, in Pennsylvania, you are responsible for the unpaid medical bills of your spouse or your parent, whether you agreed to it or not.  This is simply the law in Pennsylvania (and many other states have similar laws).  So, whether your fault or not, you could potentially be sued by a nursing home if there is an unpaid nursing home bill for your spouse or parent.  Therefore, it is critical to seek legal advice to protect assets or do gifting or any sort of estate planning, unintended consequences.

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The bottom line is, someone needs to sign that admission agreement if there is a need for long-term care.  Reading the agreement carefully should ensure that you are only agreeing to pay with the patient’s funds, not your own.  But that does not necessarily keep you off the hook for any unpaid bills, so everyone should seek legal advice if they are facing a long-term care situation to make sure they and their families are protected.

For more information, Contact Johnson Duffie at (717) 761-4540.