One of the biggest headaches for anyone who is planning to move into a care home comes with deciding what to do about their main financial asset, which is usually the family home. And that is often a jointly owned property.
If you live alone and are the sole owner of the property then the issue is relatively simple once you have decided that a care home is the way forward. The value of your home (above the national threshold) may be included in any assessment of your financial assets by your local council to ascertain if and how much of your care can be funded.
Of course, you can ensure your home is protected by looking into whether care in your own home would be a better option.
Do you have to sell your home?
If you own assets totalling above £23,250 in England and Northern Ireland, £28,000 in Scotland or £50,000 in Wales (residential care only) then you will be required to at least part-fund your care home fees following a local authority assessment of your financial assets. This means that in most cases you will have to sell your home.
Where there is a jointly owned property and someone else is living in the property: a spouse, partner or relative, your home should not be included in the means test. However there are caveats to be considered. For example, if you and a partner have equal shares in a home which you no longer share and there is no mortgage left on the property your share will be considered as being 50% of the value. If the share of the property value is unequal your assets will be calculated accordingly.
Circumstances which exclude your property from a means test
If your spouse or partner still lives in the home then it is not included in the means test, provided they are not estranged or divorced from you. But if you are separated or divorced and your partner still lives in the home to help care for a child under 18 this excludes the property from a means test. If there is a disabled relative or a relative aged over 60 who shares the home with you permanently, this also excludes the home from a means test.
If your move into a care home is only temporary, your home will not be counted towards care home fees and if you decide to engage in-home care services your property will not be included in any means test.
If your property is to be included in a means test your council must ignore it for the first 12 weeks of your residential care period to give you time to decide what to do, sell the property or find a tenant for instance. Or you could apply to your local authority for a Deferred Payment Agreement which means they lend you an amount of money from the value of your property to fund your care home fees. This is then clawed back from the sale of the property after your death.
This could enable a partner to continue to live in the property.
The issue of whether to go into a care home or stay in your own home to receive care is complex. Make sure you plan well in advance if you can.