By Alan D. Feller, Esq.
There is a wonderful symmetry associated with filling out forms. Parents perform the task countless times for their young children. Every sport and after-school activity has a permission slip, waiver, medical report and emergency contact list.
College admissions forms may include financial aid packages, tuition agreements and housing authorizations. First apartments and even first home loans may require a parent co-signor or guarantor.
With a little luck, parents and children may get a few decades of filling out their own forms. Then, when an illness or age-related issue impacts a parent, the children grab the pen.
An adult child signing documents on behalf of a parent should be acting under a health care proxy for health care purposes or power of attorney for most everything else. Created and signed in front of witnesses and a notary, the New York Statutory Short Form Power of Attorney with a Statutory Gifts Rider grants an agent significant authority to handle all types of financial matters, estate and Medicaid planning and gift transfers.
An ill parent will be navigated through many layers of health care management including hospitals, rehabilitative facilities, home care options or assisted living, and even possibly nursing home admission. The health care proxy, which is signed by the creator and witnessed, allows the chosen health care representative to make care decisions for a parent who is having difficulty advocating for themselves.
Decisions made under a health care proxy with regards to medical procedures, discharge from a facility and overall care are usually understood to carry serious consequences. Serious financial consequences related to nursing home admissions are less understood at the outset of a parent’s residence in a nursing facility. There will be plenty of financial documents that need signing and mistakes can be costly.
Should a parent require long-term institutional care, then a nursing home admissions agreement will be presented to an adult child for review and signing. But be careful. Financial responsibility lies at the heart of this admissions agreement. Signing your name without an agent designation or as POA may lead to some unnecessary aggravation. The nursing home has the right to seek payment from a financially responsible party. This means that even if Medicaid is approved there may be a private pay balance or back-income owed, which potentially could assign liability to an unsuspecting child.
Signing a nursing home admissions agreement “As Agent” or as “POA” limits your financial responsibility to the assets belonging to your parent under your control as power of attorney. Asset gift transfers to a child under a power of attorney may also be in play for nursing home collections, but signing “As Agent” with a valid power of attorney affords the best protection.
Upon a parent’s passing, a child’s status as agent under a power of attorney is extinguished. If a child signed the nursing home admissions agreement “As Agent” and no asset transfers were made, then a nursing home would have to look to the parent’s estate for a balance collection.
Nursing home bills can be large and scary. It easy to sign forms. Knowing what you are signing and trying to avoid bad results is the key to happiness.
For more information, contact the professionals at Sloan & Feller to review your rights and obligations when a parent requires nursing home care.
Alan D. Feller, Esq. is managing partner of Sloan & Feller Attorneys at Law, located at 625 Route 6 in Mahopac. He can be reached at email@example.com.