An estimated 1 million or more people have had to sell their home to pay the cost of care fees within the last 5 years; unsurprising given the average cost of a care home is over £700 per week. Many people who are worried about this are now taking drastic action to try and avoid paying care home fees. The results are not always effective, writes Helen Dandridge, solicitor at Ridley & Hall.
“Any schemes that guarantee to protect your home from being sold to fund future care home fees should be treated with extreme caution” says Helen; “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
Helen has seen a recent case involving an elderly vulnerable lady which highlights the importance of obtaining independent legal advice from a trusted firm of solicitors before making life changing decisions.
This lady, who lived alone in the Huddersfield area, paid almost £3,000 for her property to be put into a trust. She did not need this service and undoubtedly did not understand what she was paying for. The idea behind the trust deed was to transfer the property out of her sole name, so that if she ever needed to go into a care home, her home would not have to be sold to fund care fees.
Ridley & Hall receive countless enquiries about creating trusts in relation to properties or transferring assets to a family member to protect against care home fees. Whether this option is appropriate to you depends upon your circumstances.
In this particular case, the elderly client went into a care home within weeks of signing the documentation. Her ability to understand complex legal transactions and to give clear instructions is debateable. Sadly, we will probably never know the true extent of what she was advised to do and more importantly, what she understood about the transaction she entered into.
The trust deed would never have achieved the desired outcome for this lady. It was not appropriate in her circumstances and she should never have been advised to sign the documentation. She was asked to pay the money up front and it is unlikely she will get it back.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case.
Many people wrongly assume that transferring their property to their loved ones will mean that the local authority will have to fund any care home fees if they need to move into a care home.
If you do not obtain specialist legal advice from a solicitor then you may have difficulties. Local firm Ridley & Hall are aware of companies who are cold calling elderly and vulnerable adults telling them they can protect their inheritance by putting their home into a trust.
For further information, please see Age UK’s factsheet ‘Deprivation of Assets in the means test for care home provision‘.
Helen and some of her colleagues are running the Leeds 10km Abbey Dash in aid of Age UK on the 16th November 2014. If you would like to sponsor this worthwhile cause, please visit our JustGiving page.