Spouses need to be very careful or they could end up legally responsible for the cost of their husband’s of wife's nursing home care, as a recent Massachusetts court decision demonstrates.
When Milfranciu Jode entered a nursing home, his wife applied for Medicaid on his behalf. Mr. Jode was rejected by Medicaid three times due to the failure to provide backup documentation, and he died leaving the nursing home unpaid.
After Mr. Jode's death, the nursing home sued Mrs. Jode, arguing that she was legally responsible for the cost of her husband's care under something called the "doctrine of necessaries." This means that a spouse is responsible for debts incurred by the other spouse for "necessaries." The law doesn't define what constitutes a "necessary," but in the Jode case the Massachusetts Superior Court ruled that the definition of necessaries included the care provided by the nursing home. Emerson Village, LLC. v. Jode (Mass. Sup. Ct., Middlesex, No. 12-CV-1736-F, Dec. 15, 2012)
Many other states have similar laws to the one in Massachusetts making one spouse responsible for the care of the other spouse. If your spouse is in a nursing home, contact your elder law attorney right away to find out the best course of action to prevent any surprises when it comes to the bill.