Sunday, January 10, 2010

30 States Require Kids to Support Parents.

At last count, 30 states have “Filial Responsibility laws”. Whazzat?

These are laws that state that children have a legal duty to support their parents with necessities, if the parents are needy and can’t support themselves. Is your state one of them?

States with filial responsibility laws are: Alaska, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Decades ago in Ohio, as a young lawyer in a firm, I was, as are all young lawyers in a firm, relegated to the law library, researching.

One day I stumbled on this law that said that children could be prosecuted if they did not support their needy parents. Even back then before Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, and all the other entitlement programs, this looked really weird.

I showed it to our lead attorney. He had never heard of it, either. And he thought it was weird, too. I put it out of my head until a few years ago. Then I ran across an internet article by Jane Gross, who had researched it. Why would she do that? She probably got a grant, or something.

That’s where I found out that 29 other states had similar laws.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could enforce these laws? But we probably can’t. We probably never could. But it was the intent of these states to put into law what we all know we should do.

Why bring this up? Because more than any other responses I get when I bring up the need for Long Term Care Insurance is, “The kids will take care of me”. Oh yeah? Have you asked them?

Today, with fewer kids than in the “old days”, with families living farther apart, and with the daughters (traditionally, once upon a time, the primary care givers) almost all having jobs outside the home, too, the kids are the classic “Sandwich Generation”. They may not be able to do it.

Just like those old, well meaning, but ultimately useless laws, the idea that the “kids will take care of me” has gone the way of the buggy whip. It’s time to take a serious look at this issue.

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