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An Update on Family Responsibility Laws

Two years ago I wrote about family or “filial” responsibility laws.  What does the law say about a child’s responsibility to pay for a parent’s care?  The population is continuing to age and the problem of long term care isn’t going away so what, if anything, has changed in the past 2 years?

China, with 200 million citizens over the age of 60, based on sheer numbers has the most acute problem.  Recently, a new law was passed there requiring children to provide for their parents’ needs, both physical and emotional, under the threat of monetary fines and/or imprisonment.  It was reported that one child was charged under the new law for not visiting her mother and ordered to do so at least once every two months.

It’s hard to believe that such a law would be enforceable from a legal or practical stand point, in this country, but other countries are trying it.  25% of Japan’s population is over the age of 65.  While Japanese culture has a strong tradition of caring for elderly family members the problem of caring for the aged is becoming more acute there as well.  Typically, the wife has cared for her husband’s parents but with many of those wives entering the workforce, this must change by necessity.  The need for caregivers has increased as more people have had to look outside the family for assistance.

In the Ukraine, according to Katherine Pearson, a law professor at Penn State, who has done extensive research on elder care issues in other countries, and how they are attempting to respond to the growing problem, children must “display concern and render assistance”.   Parents can sue their children for financial support and a child can sue a sibling for not sharing in the support of their parents.

This is certainly a troubling trend for children who are struggling to support their own children, pay for college and in some cases support an adult child who cannot find a job or at least one that will pay enough to cover their rent and monthly bills.  What happens if supporting an aging parent is added to that financial burden? And what about their own retirement and long term care needs?

The stakes keep getting higher.  And the message remains the same.  Putting a plan in place for your aging family member is more critical than ever.  It will dramatically reduce the risk that you’ll run out of money and have someone look to you to foot the bill for an aging family member.