Business Law Elder Law Family Law Legal Topics

Do Adult Children Have a Duty to Support Their Parents?

multi-generational family photoMost people wouldn’t think twice before helping their parents financially. In fact, partially due to baby boomers’ inadequate retirement planning, 20 percent of surveyed millennials provide financial support to their parents. As Buck Wargo explains in his blog post, most millennials give this help gladly. But they may also be legally required to do so.

A fiduciary relationship is presumed between a parent and a minor child. Estate of Gelonese (1974) 36 CA3d 854, 863. But when time passes, things flip: as an adult child has a “filial responsibility” to their parents. And that responsibility may put the child on the financial hook.

Under Fam C §4400, 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.” And a spouse’s parental support obligation is a community obligation, so in-law children aren’t off the hook either. Marriage of Leni (2006) 144 CA4th 1087, 1096.

In should be noted that Fam C §4400 doesn’t refer to the obligations of adult children to indigent parents as “fiduciary” in nature. But, as a practical matter, the statute can require an adult child to place a parent’s interests ahead of his or her own.

And this duty is backed up with a criminal penalty (Pen C §270c):

Except as provided in [Fam C §§4410–4414], every adult child who, having the ability so to do, fails to provide necessary food, clothing, shelter, or medical attendance for an indigent parent, is guilty of a misdemeanor.

There are exceptions to this duty. For example, if a child was “abandoned” by a parent during the child’s minority, that now adult child may petition the family court to be freed of legal obligations to the parent. Fam C §§4410–4414.

And the duty stays between parent and child—no one is presumptively on the hook for a sibling. However, the existence of a blood relationship is a relevant factor in determining whether fiduciary duties arise from a relationship. Estate of Llewellyn (1948) 83 CA2d 534, 562 (“blood relationship is an important and material circumstance in considering the question whether in fact, a confidential relationship exists, … the relationship existing as here, between brothers, is not in itself a fiduciary relationship”).

Learn all about fiduciary duties in family businesses and transactions in CEB’s Understanding Fiduciary Duties in Business Entities, chap 6.

Other CEBblog™ posts you may find interesting:

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