Are Next of Kin Responsible for Care Home Fees?

Moving an elderly relative into a care home can be an emotional and stressful time for families. One of the big questions that arises is who will pay the care home fees. Are next of kin legally responsible?

Legal Responsibilities

Next of kin are not legally obliged to pay a relative’s care home fees, unless they have signed a contract with the care home agreeing to cover costs. However, there are a few ways that family members can assist with fees if they wish to help out.

Third Party Top-Up Fees

If a care home is too expensive for the elder alone, a family member can pay a top-up fee to cover the difference between what the elder can afford and the total cost. This involves signing a contract with the care home, making the family member legally responsible for paying the top-up amount.

Means Testing and Assets

Councils conduct means tests to determine how much care seekers and family members can contribute. Personal assets like savings, pensions and property value are considered – but wider family assets are not included. One exception is joint assets, where half the value counts toward the assessment.

Selling Property

Many people sell their home to pay care fees. This isn’t always necessary with options like deferred payment agreements that allow renting out the property. Selling is also avoided if another person still lives there.

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Deferred Payment Agreements

These agreements allow councils to lend money for care based on property value. The council claims the money back when the house sells. This allows renting the property while in care. There are admin fees and eligibility criteria.

Paying After Death

When a person dies, any unpaid fees are taken from their estate, not paid by next of kin. With deferred payment agreements, the fees become an estate debt.

Avoiding ‘Deprivation of Assets’

Gifting property to family to avoid care fees is risky and counts as deprivation of assets. Councils can still include gifted property in assessments. It can also lead to family disputes and tax issues.

Seeking Legal Advice

The system is complex, so seeking legal advice at the outset is wise. Next of kin are not automatically liable for fees, but can assist relatives through things like top-up payments. With planning, families can find suitable care within their budget.

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