Is a stepchild responsible for an aging ex-stepparent’s medical bills or nursing home bills?

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Is a stepchild responsible for an aging ex-stepparent’s medical bills or nursing home bills?

My ex-stepmother wants to move in with us. My father and her have been divorced for nearly 30 years and I am the closest thing she has to a living relative. What are my exposures?

Asked on August 16, 2011 Indiana

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

You have no exposure except to the extent that you either 1) agree to accept such exposure (including by cosigning) and/or there is some comingling of assets (in which case, the asset owned with your ex-stepmotion could, at least to the extent of her ownship, be subject to her debts).

Basically, one adult, even a child or stepchild, is not responsible for the debts of another adult except to the extent that he or she makes him- or herself responsible. (Certain exceptions exist for the situation of married couples.) Be careful to NOT comingle assets or even give the impression you are, and also to avoid the impression that you and your stepmother are trying to shelter assets or income from creditors (e.g. don't charge her a high "rent"--that could be seen as fraudulent attempt to hide her money from creditors), and you should be fine.


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