Posted by Laura Sheath

How to avoid selling your house to pay for care

In this blog, we explain how some older adults in the UK may be able to avoid paying for their care. 

Lots of people resort to selling their house or their parent’s house to pay for care but there could be other options, including NHS funding, benefits, Equity Release and even renting the property out for income.

This article does not give financial, legal or tax advice and it is best to consult with professionals before you decide how you will pay for the cost of your care fees.

elderly woman is pleased to learn that she is entitled to financial help towards the cost of care

Do I have to sell my house to pay for my care?

No, you and any qualifying dependents who live in your home have the right to stay there for as long as you wish, and cannot be forced to sell your home to pay for your care.

A qualifying dependant may be:

  • your spouse
  • civil partner
  • unmarried partner
  • a close relative over 60 (or incapacitated)
  • a close relative under 16 for whom you are legally responsible
  • your ex-spouse/partner if they are a single parent.

Can the government make me sell my house to pay for care?

No.

However, it is illegal to avoid paying for care home fees by putting it into a Trust or by giving your home away to family. This is known as deprivation of assets and your local authority can reclaim payment from you.

How much can you keep before paying for care in the UK?

If you live in England and have assets (this includes property, savings and investment) of more than £23,250, you will have to pay the full cost of your care and are referred to as a self-funding care seeker.

If you have assets of £14,250, you will have to pay some of your care home costs.

Do I need to sell my house to pay for care home fees?

Being able to keep your home while also receiving quality care from professionals may be challenging depending on your financial situation and your health needs and for many people, the reality is that they will have to contribute towards the cost of their care.

If you don’t have savings set aside and you hate the thought of selling your home, you might need to consider other options.

You may even qualify to have part or all of your care paid for by the NHS.

Until you know what type of care you need, how much it could cost you and what financial help you qualify for, you won’t know whether selling your house to pay for care home fees or other services is even necessary.

Man smiles as he sits on a chair and looks out the window to his garden

How do I get the NHS to pay for my care?

If you qualify for NHS Continuing Healthcare (NHS CHC), the NHS should meet and fund your care needs.

However, it’s not as simple as asking the NHS to pay for your care. The NHS only pays for an individual’s full cost of care, regardless of their financial situation, when care needs (either physical or mental) are a primary health need.

Defining primary health needs is a bit more complicated. To be eligible for fully funded NHS care, you must be assessed by a team of healthcare professionals (a multidisciplinary team).

The Primary Health Needs test that is applied considers four key characteristics.

Only one of these characteristics must be met for an individual eligible for NHS Continuing Healthcare.

  • Nature
  • Intensity
  • Complexity
  • Unpredictability

It’s important to note that budget restrictions and large demand can make the process of securing this funding difficult.

When you request a full assessment for NHS continuing healthcare or have an initial assessment, a decision about your eligibility should usually be made within 28 days.

If you are found to be ineligible for NHS continuing healthcare, you can be referred to your local council who can discuss with you whether you may be eligible for support from them.

Can I get some of my care funded by the NHS?

If you’re not eligible for NHS CHC you may be eligible for NHS Funded Nursing Care which is a payment from the NHS that goes towards the cost of nursing care.

If you are living in a care home, or about to move into one, the NHS will pay a proportion of the care home fees that relate specifically to nursing care.

You might qualify if:

  • You have been assessed as needing care from a registered nurse
  • You are living in a nursing home (ie: a residential care home with nursing provision).

NHS FNC is paid to the care provider rather than the claimant and importantly, it isn’t means tested, so it doesn’t matter how much you earn or whether you have a property, you could still be eligible to apply if you meet the other criteria.

Rates for NHS FNC are also set to increase on April 1st, 2024. If you’re a self-funder who’s never made a claim and you’re eligible for NHS FNC, you could potentially save £12,265 a year towards the cost of your nursing care.

Paying for care when you don’t qualify for help from the NHS

The options listed below may or may not be suitable for your unique circumstances.

To cover the cost of your care, you might:

  • Compare care-fee annuities (This covers the shortfall between your income and the cost of your care for the rest of your life)
  • Consider Equity Release (A type of loan secured against your property)
  • Invest (To make your capital work harder and provide more income)
  • Explore the deferred payment scheme (A loan from your local authority)
  • Let your property out for income (To use the profit to pay for your care)

We have a recent guide on paying for care home fees in 2024 with detailed information about each of these options.

Worried about selling your house to pay for care?

If you’re concerned that as a self-funding care seeker with no savings you’ll have to sell your home, follow the steps below.

Your next steps

  • Ask your local authority for a Care Needs Assessment so you know what level of care you need and whether it could be delivered in a care home, at home or in a retirement living village.
  • If relevant, apply for NHS CHC or NHS FNC.
  • You may also want to check if you’re eligible for benefits such as Personal Independence Payment, Universal Credit, Pension Credit or Attendance Allowance.
  • Ask Autumna to send you a list of care services in your area so you can work out how much your cost of care could be. It’s a free service and always will be.
  • Ask a financial advisor for advice on how you can pay for care while still keeping your home.

People also ask

Can I give away my assets to avoid care fees?

It's a common question that many people have: "If I give all my assets to my children, won't I appear to have nothing for the means test?"

However, it's not that simple.

If you transfer your home's deeds to your child just before you need to go into care, the local authority will consider it as "deliberate deprivation of assets" and assume that you still own the house.

Similarly, if you give a lump sum of money to your children to reduce your savings, the local authority is likely to include it in your means test, unless the gift was made several years ago or over a gradual period.

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