Are you obligated to support your parents?
Question: My retired parents are having a hard time paying for their modest living expenses in Florida, and they might be facing home healthcare or nursing home costs soon.
I think my siblings and I should all chip in, but my brother is balking. He says we have no moral obligation to help our parents, and that’s what government assistance is for. What do you think?
Answer: I’m with you on this. I think filial responsibility is part of a social contract that’s a well-established tradition in many societies, such as China and India, but less so in western nations like the U.S.
Assuming that your parents fulfilled their obligation as good parents — spending a lot of effort and money to get you to adulthood and launching you in life — you and your siblings owe them similar support in their old age (if they truly need it and you’re all able to afford a share).
This assistance could mean inviting them to live with you and your siblings’ families in rotation (a common tradition in many societies, as well as in America’s past), helping to pay for assistance in their home, or sharing their nursing home costs.
If some siblings have more wherewithal than others, some can pay more and some can provide more care. This can be negotiated among the siblings, but no one should shirk the obligation to help in some way.
A family heart-to-heart talk is called for — among the siblings first, then with Mom and Dad.
I’m talking here about a moral obligation, not a legal mandate.
On the other hand, 30 states — including California, Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania, but not New York, the District of Columbia, or your parents’ home state, Florida — have “filial responsibility” laws that require the support of indigent parents by children who can afford some degree of help.
These laws are rarely enforced, but that could change as our population rapidly ages and retirement costs accelerate.
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