Am I responsible for my father's debts if I have power of attorney?

Being empowered to act as another's agent in a power of attorney alone will not make you responsible for paying that person's debts out of your own pocket.
6 answers | Last updated: Nov 18, 2016
Gizmo asked...

I have a power of attorney for my dad. I got it at Staples and I wrote in financial, medical, housing decisions. My dad gets Medicaid and Medicare and was put into a skilled care facility. Now his landlord and the care facility want me to pay them because NYC somehow disrupted his benefits. He has no other assests. He gets a check for $724 per month and $100 in food stamps. Am I liable for his outstanding debts because of the power of attorney?


Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

If you haven't done it yet, your first order of business should be to check with the NYC authorities and unravel what went wrong with the disrupted benefits. Arm yourself with patience, perseverance, and politeness. Getting to the bottom of the mistake will likely require all of them.

It is hard to know whether you have been legally appointed his power of attorney -- not all stationery store documents will do the job. But your father's debts should remain his debts. In general, you will be personal liable for debts you officially incur on his behalf only if you:

  • agreed in advance to be personally responsible, such as by co-signing or guaranteeing a particular transaction
  • are liable for the debts because of another legal relationship that results in a duty of support, such as you claim your father as a dependent
  • negligently caused the debt, or
  • acted beyond your legal authority as guardian or conservator in incurring the debt.

Community Answers

Kmawer answered...

Every state has a legal aid attorney who specializes in assisting general people out in the public with questions regarding what do we do with our loved one with Medicare federal programs as well as local Medicaid programs which are state funded. Legal aid attorneys will consult with you for free and may possibly decide to become a case worker for your family situation. Nobody ever tells people what to do when a family member goes into a nursing home and the system is like trying to speak another language when push comes to shove. Listen,I did insurance and patient financial councelling for federal and state for a living, this will unravel all your questions. They are awesome. Its something no one tells you and without them and their assistance you are going to be in red tape till you are blue in the face.

Nfca-lois answered...

The first two people gave you great answers. The way to reach that "legal advisor" is to contact the Department of Aging in your state or the Attorney General's Office. Their title S.H.I.P. is a federal position standing for something that includes Senior Help. They can help you with things from Medicare/Medical issues and can point you in the correct direction if your issues are something they don't handle. Good luck.

A fellow caregiver answered...

I myself would get in touch with NYC and find out what the problem is. Its' quite obvious that they have previously been paid so why all of a sudden is there a problem. As someone else mentioned some of the Store Boughten POA's are not what they seem. On the brighter side you should not be held accountable for debts' incurred while he is still living as long as you didn't incurr these debts' yourself. The home in which he is living should be supplying him with all that he needs while in their care. There may be some Personal Items' that need bought that the home doesnt' cover. You yourself have to make sure that you are on his Bank Acounts', if he has ownership of his home or not. If he had a home or still does have a home then they may want it sold for payment of his needs in the home. It is best that your name be on the house and not just his. Everything should pretty much be joint so as nobody can take from him that is shared equity. Hopefully this has helped but pls. check with those who pay him monthly to find out why they are not paying for his living. I would also speak to a Solicitor about what is taking place so as you are not being held responsible for any debts' incurred. Take care,

Kmawer answered...

You, as your fathers POA are acting on his behalf as if you were him paying for his own bills. And you should pay his debts just as he would if he were able with his own means. The thing is why did New York disrupt his benfits?. Call Medicare directly and give them his social security no. and all his info and they would need you to fax a copy of your POA and then ask them why. Tell them-Because there are outstanding debts of his you are trying to pay for him. You should do this as soon as possible. You need his 724.00 every month in a timely manner or the housing facility will terminate care. Ask for everything in writing and get the name of who you spoke with and jot time and date and keep track. You need that answer and need that money and keep following up even if they get annoyed with you till you get the result you need. Unless you can pay his bills for him, you should not have to, simply because you were assigned as his legal representative and that is not part of the assignment of a POA to do so. And I can tell you, I am sure he appreciates all you are doing for him.

Commonwealthcare answered...

So I own a homecare agency. I had a durable power of attonrney call me on behalf of her father. She hired homecare services around the clock for him. After a month and a half without paying (many promises of in the mail beforehand) we reluctantly had to shut off services. Then she stated sorry he has no money and she is just the POA and cannot be held responsible by law. Is this not reckless behavior as a poa for she knew he had no money before she hired quite frankly a luxury healthcare service?