Arranging for a parent or other loved one to become a resident of a nursing home is never an easy decision. It is usually done at a time when emotions are high. It is very important for the person arranging for nursing home care to carefully scrutinize the documents of the nursing home. One such document is the Admission Application wherein the potential resident or his representative details the resident’s assets. It is extremely important to be as accurate as possible in that the nursing home is not only entitled to that information, but you do not want to later be accused of failing to disclose an asset or otherwise make any misrepresentation as to the assets. By way of example, if the applicant has a house held in one or more names, such as joint tenants with rights of survivorship with a spouse or children and it has a mortgage on it, all of that should be explained in the Admission Application. If the representative of the potential resident is signing that document, the person should clearly indicate that they are not signing as a responsible party to the indebtedness but signing as the agent of the applicant seeking to reside in the nursing home.
The other important document is the Admission Agreement. The Admission Agreement may have language in it that talks about the person signing being the responsible party and it can be confusing if the only two signature lines are the resident or the responsible party. If the potential resident has the ability to sign the document, it is worth having only that applicant sign. If the potential resident cannot sign and you decide to sign on his behalf, it would be best to sign on the resident signature line indicating you are signing as his representative only.
It has unfortunately been my experience that some nursing homes may attempt to claim personal liability for a person signing as the representative of the resident. Therefore, it is important to scrutinize those documents and make sure that there is no possible legitimate argument that the nursing home can make that you are personally guaranteeing the obligations of the resident unless you have freely decided to do so. If the nursing home requires you to sign on the responsible party signature line and you are signing only as a representative, put in writing with your signature that “I am not signing as a responsible party and I am only signing as the representative and I am not agreeing to be personally liable.”
Lastly, if your loved one is a resident of the nursing home and there are collections issues and the nursing home states you are personally liable or you think there is anything else they are stating that seems to be inaccurate, you should seek legal advice. There are some nursing homes that take legal positions that are not justified under the documents that have been signed. It is possible that a nursing home may argue to both you and the court that you are liable for all the charges for the resident’s care in the facility even though you have only signed in your representative capacity for that resident. Merely because of the nursing home authoritatively explains to you your legal rights and obligations, it does not mean that they are accurately stating those rights and obligations. If you believe what they are telling you is inaccurate, you should seek legal counsel of your own to make sure that your rights are protected and you meet the obligations that you are legally required to meet rather than those that the nursing home seeks to unilaterally impose upon you.
J. Daniel Marr is a Director and Shareholder at Hamblett & Kerrigan, P.A. His legal practice includes counseling businesses and individuals on a variety of legal issues and advocating on their behalf. Attorney Marr is licensed and practices in both New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Attorney Marr can be reached at [email protected].