WILLPOWER: Your assets can diminish quickly when care home fees need paying. This month, Clare Davies explains how they impact on your estate…
My mother recently moved into a residential home. Will she have to pay for her care?
Care home fees are means tested, so the local authority will consider your mother’s income and capital before making any decision about payments.
If she has assets worth between £14,250 and £23,250, the local authority will make a partial contribution to the fees, but if her estate is valued at more than this, she will have to pay the full cost of her care.
Your mother’s property may be disregarded from these calculations, if a partner or relative who is over the age of 60 or has a disability, is living there. She may also be exempt from care payments if she qualifies for NHS continuing healthcare funding.
I want to give my house to my children. Would it still be considered part of my estate if I need care in the future?
The short answer is yes. The local authority can take into account any gifts you have made, regardless of how long ago.
People often believe only gifts made in the last seven years can still be considered part of your estate, but where care home fees are concerned, this is not the case.
If there is a strong chance you will require residential care in the future, the local authority could deem the bequest to be a deliberate act to reduce your assets. You could then be means tested as if you still owned the property. Alternatively, your children, who were the recipients, may be asked to pay the difference.
If, however, you are fit and healthy and care is an unlikely prospect at the time you make the gift, it is more difficult for the local authority to claim it was a planned deprivation of assets.
My wife and I have mirror wills, which leave everything to the surviving spouse. Should we revise them to plan for potential care costs?
A lot of couples have quite straightforward wills, leaving everything to their surviving spouse and this may be suitable when you are younger, when care costs aren’t a likely prospect.
However, if the surviving partner does require residential care, mirror wills mean all of your combined assets would be considered during the means testing and could be lost in fees.
One alternative is to make wills that place half the family home in trust upon the first death. This enables the surviving partner to remain living in the property, but ring fences some of its value, so it can’t be considered as part of their estate for care costs.
If you are concerned your wills no longer meet your needs, contact us to arrange a review of your current provision and discuss the merits of including a trust arrangement.
To find out more about planning for care costs and making gifts, why not book a free 30-minute consultation with one of our probate specialists? Phone 0114 218 4000, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or complete this form.