It seems that almost every day we are confronted with the need to sign some sort of agreement or click through some sort of acceptance process. Each time you download an app you are required to. Accepting an airline or cruise boarding pass is often also the contract. We cannot get away from them. They are a part of our everyday life.
But, that doesn’t mean we should blindly sign agreements, especially long-term care agreements. Often we hear from client or family members about signing entrance agreements for long term care facilities – after they’ve signed. The typical story is that an employee took information, printed out a set of documents, marked them up a little, and highlighted where the person should sign. The person asked some questions and then signed without reading even one line.
Little did that person know that the employee probably had no idea what was being signed. In fact, that employee learned from the supervisor what to mark up and where the signatures had to be. When we’ve questioned some of those employees, they’ve said things like, “It’s all boilerplate, and doesn’t really matter,” “It just goes in a file somewhere,” and “Nobody reads that stuff.”
Not long ago, in Connecticut, a daughter signed her mother’s residency agreement for assisted living. The agreement stated that both mother and daughter agreed to be held liable for the mother’s bill. When the mother stopped paying, the facility went after the daughter. The appeals court ruled that the assisted living residency agreement was enforceable and that the daughter had to pay. The court noted that the contract plainly stated personal liability.
We have also reviewed contracts where family members have unknowingly signed these types of agreements.
Personal liability is only one of several areas of concern with facility agreements. While we understand these agreements are often a necessary part of the entrance process, we also know that certain conditions, such as the one above, can usually be negotiated or avoided. If you are not confident in your ability to read and decipher these contracts, we encourage you to have them reviewed by an elder law attorney before signing. Also, if you have signed them unknowingly, get help right away, before a conflict arises.