The Nursing Home and the Stimulus Check

Written by
Damian Dunn

"Hi! My name is Pam. I have a question regarding the nursing facility where my Mother-In-Law is a resident.

I was under the impression that the Stimulus Check was the property of the person who the check was sent to. I have been looking and studying on the internet about this subject and couldn't get an exact answer.

The check came to the nursing facility and after talking to the Administrator I was very concerned. She told me that the check was for the patient. Since the intended patient is a resident there, and due to some of her health problems she is not able to leave the nursing facility, her son and I were under the impression that the check would go to her son who is her only child. The Administrator told us that the check is the nursing facility's property and that they were going to open the patient a banking account and the money in there would be used only for things she would need there. First, we wanted to know where this account would be and when there were transactions made on the account and what they were for.

Could you please let me know if this is legal how the Administrator is using the check?

Thank you so much for your help."


Hi Pam,

I must confess, when I read your email I was a bit surprised. After a bit of research, it turns out that a number of nursing home facilities around the country have tried to convince those that they care for to surrender their stimulus money to the facility for costs incurred during their stay. After I stopped shaking my head in disbelief, I reread your note and some things came into focus. I’m going to do my best to unpack what I think you’re asking and looking for:

First, stimulus payments are the property of the individual whose name is on the check. They are a prepayment of a tax credit that will be available on the tax returns we file next spring. If the nursing home is laying any claim to the money, which I’m not entirely sure they are, they shouldn’t be. Simply put, the money belongs to the person whose name is on the check. In this case, your mother-in-law.

Next, if your mother-in-law is in good mental health and approved the nursing home to help her open a bank account, that’s her decision. If the account is in her name only, what she does with the money is up to her, which may be upsetting to the nursing home. I could easily see someone from the facility asking her if they could help her establish the account so she could then use the money for her needs there. Based on her living situation, that may be a very reasonable outcome, but it still gives me an uneasy feeling. Also, if for some reason the account is in her name and anyone else’s name from the nursing home, that’s an immediate red flag and cause for concern.

That brings us to you and your husband. You didn’t share if either of you have a Power of Attorney or guardianship in place with your mother-in-law. If you do, I would think that you’d be involved with the opening of the account on behalf of your mother-in-law and help decide what the best use of the money is. That would be another reasonable approach to this situation. Short of that, however, it’s unlikely that you or your husband has any legal right to the cash.

With that said, I’m not an attorney and what I’ve just written isn’t a legal opinion. Based on additional details that you know about you and your husband’s relationship and/or responsibilities with regards to your mother-in-law, it may be a very good idea to run this past a lawyer to make sure everything is on the up and up. I hate seeing some of our most vulnerable neighbors being taken advantage of and I hope that’s not the case here.

Step up your financial wellness game.

Stay up-to-date with the latest in employee wellbeing from the desk of Pete the Planner®. Subscribe to the monthly newsletter to get industry insights and proven strategies on how to be the wellness champion your team wants you to be.