Filial Responsibility Law in California

Gabriel Katzner - June 28, 2024 - Estate Planning
Filial Responsibility Law in California

If you live in one of the 26 U.S. states that have filial responsibility laws on the books, you may be responsible for providing basic needs and medical care if your parents cannot afford it. Filial responsibility describes the obligation or duty an adult child has to their parents.

Some cultures, especially those where multiple generations coexist and provide support, deeply instill the duty of caring for aging parents. While filial responsibility can be expected in Japan, China, Vietnam, and Korea, in the U.S., it is more common for adults to save for retirement so they remain financially independent from their adult children.

States With Filial Support Laws?

In 2024, according to the World Population Review, 26 states have filial responsibility laws on their books. While some sources list 29 states, Idaho, Iowa, and Montana have repealed their laws.

States with filial responsibility laws:

  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Georgia
  • Indiana
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Massachusetts
  • Mississippi
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia

California Family Code 4400 (2018) states, “Except as otherwise provided by law, an adult child shall, to the extent of his or her ability, support a parent who is in need and unable to maintain himself or herself by work.” Section 4403 states that a parent, or a county on behalf of a parent, may bring action against a child that enforces their duty to support their parent. A county that provides support to a parent has the same right as the parent to seek reimbursement and obtain continuing support from a child.

Filial responsibility in California is not clear-cut, however. The Welfare and Institutions Code WIC 12350 conflicts with the Family Code and states, “No relative shall be legally liable to support or contribute to the support of any applicant for or recipient of aid under this chapter.”

In most states with a filial responsibility law in place, the income level of the parent and adult child is considered when determining responsibility for a parent’s debt. The justification for filial responsibility laws is that the state should not be responsible for supporting indigent adults who have family members capable of providing financial support.

Factors Used to Determine Filial Support Responsibility in California

California Family Code Section 4404 states that the following factors (both child and parent) will be considered when determining the amount of support a child needs to provide to their parents:

  • Earning capacity
  • Needs
  • Obligations
  • Assets
  • Age
  • Health
  • Standard of living

The court may also consider any other factors it deems just and equitable.

Filial Responsibility Law Enforcement

States vary in their enforcement of filial responsibility laws. Some states never enforce their laws, while others more aggressively do. One possible reason is that Medicaid, a needs-based government program, can only use a spouse’s information when determining financial eligibility for benefits.

As healthcare costs continue to increase and programs that provide support for basic needs and healthcare funding increase, the states may increase their enforcement of filial responsibility laws.

Implications of Filial Responsibility Laws

As you and your parents create estate plans to transfer wealth from generation to generation, it is important to consider the potential implications of filial support laws.

If your parents are unable or refuse to pay their long-term care bills, you may be liable. Even short-term stays in a custodial care facility can be very expensive. When adults do not have Medicaid or long-term care insurance to cover these costs, they are responsible for out-of-pocket expenses, and this responsibility can be transferred to their children.

In the 2012 Pennsylvania case of Health Care & Retirement Corporation v. Pittas, the court held an adult son responsible for his mother’s $93,000 skilled nursing and rehabilitation care bill following her departure from the country to live with her two children in Greece. John didn’t sign her in for care. His liability stemmed solely from his relationship with his mother and his status as her only remaining relative in the country.

In contrast, the 2013 Montana case Heritage Place, Inc. v. Jerry A. Jarrell found that federal statutes trumped state filial responsibility laws, and the child was not held liable for his mother’s $15,967.99 nursing home bill. Jerry, her son, acting under a durable power of attorney, orally agreed to financial responsibility for his mother’s care.

In the 2013 North Dakota case, Four Seasons Healthcare Center v.  Linderkamp, the court found Eldon Lindenkamp was liable for his parents’ $104,276 nursing home bill. Of concern was a claim of fraudulent conveyance of real estate. Eldon’s parents sold property to Eldon and his wife for less than market value.

Consult with an attorney specializing in elder care and your estate planning attorney to understand your state’s laws regarding filial responsibility. Consider how to best use Medicaid benefits and long-term care insurance to reduce your risk of financial responsibility.

Talk with your parents about their finances and plans for long-term care. If you have questions about your estate plan and how to protect your assets, please schedule a call with us or reach out to us directly at 855.631.3457 to learn more about how to best plan today to protect those most important to you.

Gabriel Katzner

In 2002, Gabriel Katzner, the founding partner of Katzner Law Group received his Juris Doctorate with honors from the Fordham University School of Law. After spending the first 7 years of his legal career
practicing at Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP, an international law firm based in New York, he went on to found his own firm.

Gabriel Katzner has a track record, along with a vast number of
outstanding public reviews across platforms, of working hard on behalf of individuals who need assistance with comprehensive
estate planning services. Finding a lawyer who is knowledgeable about revocable and irrevocable trust planning, guardianship for minor children, asset protection, trust administration and probate,
as well as Medi-Cal / Medicaid planning is extremely important.

Years of experience: More than 17 years
Location: San Diego, CA


This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. Furthermore, it has received approval from attorney Gabriel Katzner, an experienced estate planning lawyer with over 17 years of legal expertise.

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