Was your father on Medicaid? Or was he paying privately? When did your father pass away? Where did he reside at the time of his death? Was an estate probated for him? If not, why not?
Did your father own any assets? Were these probate assets? Who would be the personal representative of your father's estate?
The person who would be the personal representative of your father's estate needs to contact the nursing home. If an estate has or will be probated then the personal representative needs to notify the nursing home of that fact and direct them to submit a claim with the personal representative or estate as required by the estate rules. Most states require that personal notice be given as well as notice by publication. If the nursing home submits a claim then it should be paid, along with any other claims, when the claims period closes. If there is not enough money, then claims are paid in order of priority.
Neither you nor your sister would be personally liable for the nursing home bill if you did not sign any agreements. However, if the estate would be in PA, then PA has a specific law which provides that children may be liable for nursing home bills incurred by a parent. See 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 4603 Relatives' liability for support of the indigent; procedure
(1) Except as set forth in paragraph (2), all of the following individuals have the responsibility to care for and maintain or financially assist an indigent person, regardless of whether the indigent person is a public charge:
(i) The spouse of the indigent person.
(ii) A child of the indigent person.
(iii) A parent of the indigent person.
(2) Paragraph (1) does not apply in any of the following cases:
(i) If an individual does not have sufficient financial ability to support the indigent person.
(ii) A child shall not be liable for the support of a parent who abandoned the child and persisted in the abandonment for a period of ten years during the child's minority.
(1) Except as set forth in paragraph (2), the amount of liability shall be set by the court in the judicial district in which the indigent person resides.
(2) For medical assistance for the aged other than public nursing home care, as provided in section 401 of the act of June 13, 1967 (P.L. 31, No. 21), [FN1] known as the Public Welfare Code, the following apply:
(i) Except as set forth in subparagraph (ii), the amount of liability shall, during any 12-month period, be the lesser of:
(A) six times the excess of the liable individual's average monthly income over the amount required for the reasonable support of the liable individual and other persons dependent upon the liable individual; or
(B) the cost of the medical assistance for the aged.
(ii) The department may, by reasonable regulations, adjust the liability under subparagraph (i), including complete elimination of the liability, at a cost to the Commonwealth not exceeding those funds certified by the Secretary of the Budget as available for this purpose.
(c) Procedure.--A court has jurisdiction in a case under this section upon petition of:
(1) an indigent person; or
(2) any other person or public body or public agency having any interest in the care, maintenance or assistance of such indigent person.
(1) If an individual liable for support under this section fails to comply with an order under this section, the court shall schedule a contempt hearing. At the hearing, if the court determines that the individual liable for support has intentionally failed to comply with the order, the court may hold the individual in contempt of court and may sentence the individual to up to six months' imprisonment.
(2) This subsection applies regardless of whether the indigent person is confined in a public institution.
If your father did not live in PA at the time of his death, the above statute does not apply. However, you will need to consult a probate attorney in the state where your father resided and where an estate would be probated for him to see if that state had a similar law.
So if your father's estate does not have assets, then you and your sister may need to split the debt. If you do not pay it at all, there may be repercussions for your sister. I am not an employment lawyer, but most states provide that an employee can be fired for any reason as long as it is not improper. Nothing may stop the nursing home from firing your sister if the bill is not paid.
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