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What's New? > Where there’s a will, there’s a way round care home fees

Where there’s a will, there’s a way round care home fees

Published: 2nd February 2012

Government plans to raise the proposed lifetime cap on care fee contributions by the elderly to £60,000 have been met with a storm of protest, but those who wish to provide for care in retirement are being encouraged to take steps to protect their assets now. 

Funding for care home placements has been means tested since 1948. The principle being that those who can afford to pay should do so, with a safety net for those who do not have the means.  In 2011 the Government commissioned a report on the issue of long term care, chaired by the economist Andrew Dilnot. 

Last week it was widely reported that the Government is considering increasing the proposed lifetime cap on home-based and residential care services from the £35,000 suggested by Dilnot up to £60,000. The level of capping has been fiercely criticised by campaign groups like the Pensioners' Convention, who must now wait to see the final detail when the White Paper on social care and a progress report on funding options is published in April. It is also expected to include an updating of the means testing criteria and limits.

Under the current system, anyone who requires care must pay all the fees out of their own money, unless and until they qualify under means testing. They will receive benefits from the state to help with fees when their capital has been reduced to £23,250. This system is criticised for penalising those who have saved for their old age and, because the longer an elderly relative lives, the less they have to pass on to their children.  The new proposals place a lifetime cap on the contribution towards care fees.  The capital limit may rise also - with £100,000 currently being proposed.

The Government hopes the changes will encourage people to take out insurance or consider other solutions to cope with a known maximum sum of care and residential care fees as part of their general financial planning strategy.  If they were then to require care, the insurance company will pay the fees up to the cap, after which the person will become entitled to state benefits to cover the ongoing costs.

Whatever the lifetime cap and the asset limit, with rising house prices means testing is likely to force many people to sell their home to fund care fees.  By planning in advance, however, there are circumstances in which at least part of the value of the family home could be ring fenced and kept out of the means testing equation.  This is particularly useful where remaining assets will be less than the limit.

In April the Department of Health is due to issue a White Paper on the future of social care and this will shed more light on what we can expect.  No matter what comes out of it, there is much that can be done to manage the risk.  Anyone with property should start with a well-drafted will, which puts shares in the family home into trust.  This is a simple, safe and proven method of limiting one's liability for residential home fees, in most circumstances.

Most couples buy property as "joint tenants", which ensures that when one party dies, their share passes automatically to the other. By changing the ownership of the property to "tenants in common", each party can leave their share to who they like, which opens the way to leaving their half of the house to their children, or, better still, to place it into a trust.  If this is done, half the value of the house will be ring-fenced if the surviving spouse needs nursing care."

If you require further information on the above or any other Wills and Probate matter, please contact a member of our Wills and Probate team on 01553 660033.

This article aims to supply general information, but it is not intended to constitute advice. Every effort is made to ensure that the law referred to is correct at the date of publication and to avoid any statement which may mislead. However, no duty of care is assumed to any person and no liability is accepted for any omission or inaccuracy. Always seek our specific advice.