SIGNING A NURSING HOME ADMISSION AGREEMENT AS A RESPONSIBLE PARTY
There may come a time in your life when you may need to sign a nursing home admission agreement in order for a close family member to be entered into a nursing home facility, which scenario would likely occur at a very stressful time in your life. The nursing home might require that the admission agreement be signed by someone holding a power of attorney or perhaps after being appointed as a Conservator, on behalf of the family member because the family member is otherwise unable to sign the document on his or her own behalf.
When presented with a nursing home admission agreement, more often than not the individual merely signs the document and does not fully understand it, as the person is signing it in order to get their family member admitted into the facility so they can receive necessary care. The individual that signs the agreement, however, typically signs it in their representative capacity and/or as a “responsible party.” If you are ever presented with and/or asked to sign a nursing home admission agreement, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. Ideally, if your family member can sign the agreement on his or her own behalf, then they should do so. Otherwise, you will need to fully review the document and possess an understanding of the potential ramifications of signing the admission agreement in your representative capacity and/or as the responsible party. While a nursing home cannot require you to personally guarantee payment in your representative capacity, they can ask that you sign as a responsible party, which obligates you to use the family member’s assets for payment of services and can result in you assuming responsibilities under the contract. Even if you sign the admission agreement in your capacity as a power of attorney, there is case law that has determined that the individual signed the document as both a power of attorney and a responsible party, placing liability on the person signing the agreement.
The bottom line is: if you sign as a “responsible party” on a nursing home admission agreement, then you are likely assuming all of the obligations of a “responsible party” as set forth in the admission agreement, which can include using the family member’s assets to pay for the nursing home costs and/or assisting the family member with Medicaid eligibility. Since nursing homes have sued individuals by virtue of being a “responsible party” under the contract in this state, you should try to avoid signing the document as such or, if you must sign the document, then you should make sure you fully understand the ramifications of signing the document before doing so. It is always best to consult with an attorney in order to understand your rights prior to signing any legal document.