Consult an attorney before signing a nursing home agreement

A nursing home agreement is a binding contract that typically involves a large amount of money. Just as with a real estate contract, it’s wise to have an attorney review the agreement before you sign it, so you can understand exactly what your rights and responsibilities will be.

That can be especially true if you’re signing a contract for an aging relative. For instance, you’ll want to know to what extent you might become personally responsible to pay for your relative’s care.

In one recent case, Judy Andrien signed an admission agreement with a nursing home in Connecticut on behalf of her mother. Judy signed the contract as a “responsible relative,” and she agreed to pay the nursing home out of her mother’s assets and assist in arranging for Medicaid coverage.

The contract didn’t require Judy to personally guarantee payment to the nursing home out of her own pocket. However, it did say that Judy could become personally liable if she did anything that interfered with her mother’s Medicaid eligibility, or if she failed to arrange payment to the home from her mother’s assets.

Eventually a dispute arose, and the nursing home sued Judy personally for payment. Judy argued that she was protected by a state law that says a nursing home can’t require a third party to guarantee payment as a condition of admission.

But the Connecticut Superior Court refused to throw the suit out. According to the court, the agreement was valid because it didn’t directly require Judy to guarantee payment. The court said Judy could still be sued personally for “breach of contract” if she failed to live up to her promises to pay the home out of her mother’s assets and to assist in obtaining Medicaid benefits.

Before you sign any contract with a nursing home, be sure you fully understand what your obligations are and what might happen to you if something goes wrong.

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