Not everyone will need the services of a nursing home in later life, but the demand for care is increasing as we all live longer – not necessarily in good health.
The average cost of a private nursing home is currently around £30,000 a year. Many people are, quite rightly, worried about how to pay for this provision and the impact it will have on their families.
If you have enough income or assets of more than £23,250, the general rule is that you will have to pay for your own nursing care, although you may be entitled to Attendance Allowance or NHS funding. The value of your home is disregarded if it is still occupied by a spouse or partner, or a relative living with you who is more than 60 years old or incapacitated.
The local authority will meet some of the care home costs for those who have assets valued between £14,250 and £23,250. If your assets are worth less than this lower threshold, most of your income will be used to pay for your care, although the rest of the fees will be paid in full by the council, up to a maximum limit. Should this not cover the fees charged by the home of your choice, the shortfall will have to be met by a third party if you are to remain at this location.
No one wants to see their home and life savings disappear in a care fees black hole, which is why it is so important to plan ahead and make provision for future nursing bills.
Couples can protect their home from being sucked into the care fee structure by making a will that divides the property’s ownership on the first death between the surviving spouse and your children. This is only possible if you own your home jointly as ‘tenants in common’ and each person makes a will dealing with his or her share.
When one of you dies, this half of the property passes into a trust that benefits the surviving spouse and your children. It can be set up in such a way that the survivor has the right to live there for as long as they wish and may also move house, with the trust owning a share of the new property. When this spouse dies or goes into residential care, the half share held in trust passes to your children.
This arrangement ensures you are not committed to anything until one of you dies and it cannot be challenged by a local authority. The only disadvantage is that it will only protect one half of the property and will not help both of you, should you need nursing home care at the same time.