Am I, as POA, responsible for my parents' debts, and will Medicaid take the house?

A fellow caregiver asked...
  1. Although I never signed as being the responsible party for my Mother can a Nursing Home collect the money from me? I would have been able to pay for the bill but the Nursing Home insisted that I apply for Medicaid when my Mother's Medicare was running out. I did sign a "Notice Of Medicare Provider Non-Coverage" form but I signed it as her Power of Attorney.

  2. My Father was deceased in 2008. He owed a line of credit loan in his name only but the bank did not file against his estate during probate period. My Mother assumed the payments but did not sign any forms making her responsible as far as I know. Can they file against my Mother's estate for this if she did not sign on the original note or if she never signed to be responsible?

  3. My Mother had a will leaving everything to me. In addition she had a Special Deed on her home and farms. They made it a life estate measured by her life and upon her death the remainder was to go to me. Does this protect the house and the farms from creditors?

  4. I don't totally understand the Application For Probate and Letters State of North Carolina form. Under the property of the estate it shows her household furnishings and a vehicle which was willed to me and I have now titled in my name. Under the property which can be added to the estate if needed to pay claims it shows our bank accounts and real estate owed by decedent and not listed elsewhere which would be the home and farms. Does this mean that I can still loss the home and farms in probate to the creditors although the will gives them to me?

Sorry for being so lengthy with this post. If you need any more information please let me know. I am worrying myself sick over the possible loss of my Mother's home and farms which have been in our family for over 100 years. Have lost weight over the worrying and am now down to 88 pounds and I can't continue to stress over these matters.

Thank you.

Expert Answer

Steve Weisman hosts the nationally syndicated radio show A Touch of Grey, heard on more than 50 stations, including WABC in New York City and KRLA in Los Angeles. He is a practicing lawyer specializing in estate planning and is admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court. He's a public speaker and commentator who has appeared on many radio and television shows throughout the country, and he's the legal editor of Talkers magazine, the preeminent trade publication of talk radio. His latest book is The Truth About Avoiding Scams.

If you have never personally assumed the responsibilty for your mother's nursing home care, you cannot be held personally responsible if you have acted on her behalf solely as her agent under her Durable Power of Attorney.

In regard to your father's loan, if the debt was solely that of your late father, your mother was not responsible for that debt following his death. The bank could take the position that your mother ratified the loan by making payments and perhaps getting some benefit from the loan. You should consult a lawyer and provide him with all documentation and communications between your mother, father and the bank pertaining to the loan to determine if there is any responsibilty on the part of your mother.

The deed with the life estate, if done properly, overrides the Will. The life estate made it more difficult for her creditors to take action during her lifetime, but not impossible. Once she died, the property would pass to you free of her creditors if they did not take action prior to her death and the life estate was set up prior to her incurring the debts to which you refer.

In regard to the accessibility of your mother's probate assets to her creditors, the claims of creditors come before those people named as inheriting the property in a Will.

You have a lot of concerns that indicate you need legal advice from an experienced probate attorney in your state. I urge you to contact a lawyer as soon as possible.