Nursing Homes & Fees

If you, or your relative, have reached the point where it becomes preferable or necessary to move to a setting where support can be provided in a care home, it’s critical to know all your options, as well as the likely level of care home fees, before making any major decisions.

 

What level of support is needed?

A home registered simply as a “care home” will provide personal care that covers help with washing, dressing and giving medication. Should you require medical or nursing care you will need to be in an establishment registered as a “care home with nursing”, also known as a “nursing home”.
How far should you plan ahead?

Obviously, it is essential to choose a home where the level of care required is readily available, and where you will not be spending money on services you will not need. Equally, if your health is declining rapidly, that approach may need to be balanced with looking ahead and anticipating a higher level of care in the near future in order to avoid having to move from one home to another.

Your GP will be able to advise on whether nursing care is appropriate (short or long term); but it will certainly be needed if, for instance, you require:

  • Dressing of an open or closed wound
  • Artificial feeding
  • Medicine through injections
  • Intensive rehabilitation resulting from a debilitating disease or surgery

Planning your nursing home care

Often the choice of a care home or nursing home has to be made in a hurry – in the aftermath of an illness, hospital stay or fall – giving you limited time to make a decision on where to go, or to plan how you meet the fees. Choices may also be limited because some homes can have waiting lists. But the more time you can spend choosing the right home, the better.

 

Choosing the right nursing home

The first important consideration is location – ideally it should be convenient for friends and relatives to visit. And while it might seem natural for someone to move to a home close to where they have always lived, the support network for that person may have changed, making it advisable to move close to immediate family or those in the best position to make regular visits.

 

Paying for care

  1. Transferring your home to family

Often families believe that by gifting their property to loved ones it will protect their home. This is not the case and can leave you open to big risks for example, the people you gift the property to may:

  • Get divorced
  • Become bankrupt
  • Die before you decide to sell the property
  • Have their own care issues

In any of these cases by giving your property to one or more people, they become the owners and that may cause a whole host of other problems.

It could be tempting to give away or sell your house to relatives to avoid the fees to avoid paying the full cost of care. There have even been cases of people ‘selling’ houses to a relative for a nominal fee in order to transfer legal ownership.

The local authority will ask about any previously owned assets, and take into account any reasons you had to hand over assets or property to other people together with the timing of the transfer, motive and the sums paid.

In the worst case scenario, the transfer could however be seen as ‘deliberate deprivation’ and the sale reversed, with the power to claim care costs from the person the assets were transferred to.

 

  1. Creating a trust

Many financial advisors will tell you that it possible to avoid paying care home fees, as long as the necessary protection plan has been implemented prior to care being required.  The argument is that putting your property into a Trust means that it will become a protected asset and therefore cannot be used to cover care home costs.

They also argue that the major advantage of transferring property into Trust as opposed to transferring it to say, a family member, is that the Settlor (person placing property into Trust i.e. you) is able to retain control as to how that asset is used. As the property is placed into Trust instead of transferred to an individual, it means that there is no Capital Gains Tax (CGT) liability for the beneficiaries. A long term benefit is that Trustees will not need to go through the expensive and time consuming process of Probate in order to sell the property or transfer it.

Be wary of any company or scheme that claims to protect your home or assets from being sold if you go into care by placing them in trust. Local authorities are increasingly wise to these type of schemes, with teams in place to ensure residents are not using them to get out of paying rising care costs.

Crucially, seek expert advice and make sure you know the rules around care costs to avoid falling into any traps and losing more than necessary.

 

  1. Assistance from the local authority

You may hope for help with these from your local authority, but this is means-tested and thresholds are very low.

If you have more than £23,250, you will have to pay for care. Below this, you will contribute with the amount based on means-testing.

This includes savings, income, and your property may be counted as capital after 12 weeks if you move into a care home on a long-term basis. However, it will not be counted if, for example, your spouse or civil partner still lives there. Once savings fall below £14,250, only income is considered for a means assessment.

According to healthcare analysts LaingBuisson, the average cost of nursing care is £750 a week.

Reforms are underway to reduce the likelihood of anyone with ongoing care needs losing their home and all savings. The government is introducing a £72,000 cap on costs in April 2016 before the state will step in, but this doesn’t cover accommodation or food bills. A flat rate of £230 is currently proposed for these, which for many won’t meet the cost.

So what can you do to reduce or extinguish costs?

Unfortunately, there is no safe easy obvious way to circumvent paying for nursing home fees apart from financial planning many years ahead which most of our elderly parents never considered and we have not planned for as their older offspring.

 

This information provided in this article is not intended to constitute legal or financial advice and each relationship breakdown requires careful consideration in our view by a fully qualified Solicitor and qualified Independent Financial Advisor before decisions are made and before you embark on a certain course of action.

Shak Inayat
Solicitor
0207 183 2898

How Should I Choose A Divorce Lawyer?

When you and your spouse have decided that you are no longer able to stay married, it is important to choose the right solicitor to help you through the divorce process. This will be an emotional time for you and therefore you need to find a solicitor who can be practical, professional and who is on your side during this difficult time.

It is important to take your time and do some research to ensure that you get the best possible representation, no matter what your circumstances are. It is also important to know that the law is different in Scotland and Northern Ireland than it is in England and Wales, so you need to make sure that your solicitor has expertise in divorce in the area of the UK that relates to you.

First and foremost you need to know that the solicitor you use has experience in family law. There are a number of ways you can check this. The solicitor’s website will detail their expertise and you should meet them in person for a discussion about your circumstances. This meeting not only allows you to understand their expertise, but it also helps you to decide if you feel comfortable with them acting on your behalf.

You need to be able to communicate freely with your solicitor so if they make you feel uncomfortable by using long words and legal jargon they are probably not the right fit for you. Many solicitors will offer a free initial discussion to learn more about your situation and this gives you an opportunity to review them too.

It may be important to you to keep conflict to a minimum, especially if there are children involved in the divorce, and by using a collaborative family solicitor you can achieve this. Collaborative family law allows both you and your spouse to meet with your solicitors to work through your divorce together without going to court and you sign an agreement to this effect. This can help to significantly reduce the animosity and bring your divorce to a conclusion as amicably as possible.

Choosing a solicitor to represent you can be difficult, but if you take your time and research your options before making a choice, you can ensure you end up with a solicitor you are comfortable with.

This information provided in this article is not intended to constitute legal advice and each relationship breakdown requires careful consideration in our view by a fully qualified Solicitor before decisions are made and before you embark on a certain course of action.

Shak Inayat
Solicitor
0207 183 2898

What Do I Need To Know About Divorce?

Making the very difficult decision to get a divorce from your spouse is one which will take time.

It is crucial therefore that you know where you stand and what your rights are before you make any firm decisions and to learn as much about the process as possible.

1. On what grounds can I get divorced?

There are five different grounds for divorce in England and Wales (the law is different in Scotland and Northern Ireland). These are:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion
  • You’ve been separated and lived apart for 2 years and you both agree to the divorce
  • You’ve been separated and lived apart for 5 years, even if your spouse will not consent to the divorce

You must also have been married for a year before you can commence divorce proceedings

2. How do I deal with custody of our children?

You will ideally agree on the details of the custody of your children amicably with your spouse before the divorce petition is sent to the court because the Statement of Arrangements for the Children needs to be sent along with the divorce petition. The court needs to be persuaded that the arrangements you put in place are in the best interests of your children. If you are struggling to be amicable, there is the opportunity for you to and your spouse to get a mediator involved to resolve these issues, but not being able to agree does not mean that you cannot divorce. It simply means that you may need to address the custody issues separately.

3. How is the financial settlement worked out?

Each divorce is different and as it is really important to achieve the best settlement possible for you and your children, speaking with a specialist family solicitor will help you to ensure you get sound legal advice on this important area of divorce. There are a number of factors that will be considered before the most common settlement of a monthly maintenance figure will probably be agreed. You should try to work through any contentious issues with a mediator if necessary and try to agree the financial settlement before court.

4. Will I have to go to court?

If your divorce is contested (your spouse does not agree with the divorce) then you will have to go to court and possibly attend a court hearing alongside your spouse. However, if neither of you contest the divorce you will not have to attend court. All paperwork, including your divorce petition and your applications for a decree nisi and decree absolute will go through the court.

If you decide that a divorce is the route you want to take, you should seek advice from a family law solicitor to ensure that you are fully aware about what your divorce will mean for you and your family.

This information provided in this article is not intended to constitute legal advice and each relationship breakdown requires careful consideration in our view by a fully qualified Solicitor before decisions are made and before you embark on a certain course of action.

Shak Inayat
Solicitor
0207 183 2898

How Should I Look After My Will?

Making a Last Will and Testament is one of the most important things you will ever do. It will give you control over what happens to your estate once you die and in addition, it provides legal protection for your loved ones.

However it is not as simple as making your Will, putting it in the cupboard and forgetting all about it. If you do take this approach, you may find that by the time you die your Will is completely out of date and could exclude loved ones you wanted to inherit from your estate and perhaps worse still include those you didn’t.

Therefore, it is hugely important to understand how to take care of your Will, so that by the time you die it still reflects your wishes.

The first common mistake once a Will has been made is that it gets put into a cupboard and forgotten about. If you have not told anyone that you have made a Will this can cause serious problems in the future.

If your Will isn’t found, you will be deemed to have died intestate, which means that your estate is divided up by the law of intestacy, with no reference to your own wishes. Therefore, when you make a Will, it is important to tell people close to you that you have made a Will and also where it is stored.

You should also consider where to store your Will so that it is safe. A solicitor could store a copy of your Will at their offices, often in a safe able to withstand any fire or flood risks. You could also retain a copy of the Will at home, but bearing in mind the complications mentioned above, it is not advisable to store the original copy at your home.

Once your Will has been made, it is important to keep it up to date, particularly if you get married, divorced or have children. In all of these circumstances, there are real implications to not updating your Will, such as an ex-spouse inheriting all of your estate when she has already remarried. This can and does happen, so keeping your Will up to date is critical. This can be done quickly and simply with a codicil for small updates, or for some of the larger life events it may be necessary to make a new Will. Your solicitor will usually gladly discuss any changes to your circumstances over the telephone and advise you whether your Will needs updating.

What is crucial with updates and new Wills is that they remain valid in the eyes of the law. Any invalid changes may make the Will void, meaning again that you will be classed as dying intestate.

One thing is certain, you should treat your Will with care and respect and not just forget about it, as this could cause significant repercussions after your death.

This information provided in this article is not intended to constitute legal advice and each relationship breakdown requires careful consideration in our view by a fully qualified Solicitor before decisions are made and before you embark on a certain course of action.

Shak Inayat
Solicitor
0207 183 2898

Should Divorce Cases Be Removed From Court Altogether?

Marriage is said to be the oldest institution and getting married is a serious contract to enter into with someone. The consequences of the marriage not working are to navigate a divorce, which often can be adversarial, long and complex. However, plans are moving forward to allow divorce to be carried out in a national processing centre, which will pave the way for divorce to become much easier and could be similar to applying for a new passport.

Sir James Munby, one of the country’s most senior judges is looking to take 120,000 divorces out of the court system each year and put them into a number of regional centres across the country in order to complete the paperwork instead of in a court. He says that the process of divorce should be removed from the issues connected to ending a marriage, like the division of assets or the custody of children.

Any divorce which is not contested and where there are no financial claims nor any claims over children will be included in these new plans, which will help to reduce the burden on the court and to make divorce cheaper and easier.

As non-contested divorces are largely administrative, Sir James says that this is a process which could lend itself to being completed in a central processing centre.

Whilst there is general support for the move from elsewhere in the judiciary, with Sir Paul Coleridge who founded the Marriage Foundation which champions stable relationships in marriage, saying that this simplified divorce process is already happening, albeit by a judge in the court system. He also commented that, whilst he supported the changes, there was a real risk that the general public may perceive that divorce was easier as a result.

Of course whilst there are many supporters of making the process of divorce less adversarial and easier for everyone involved, there are people who do not support these ideas. Ex Tory MP Ann Widdecombe has commented that the idea makes a mockery of marriage by making divorce too easy and that the decision to get divorced should be taken with plenty of thought.

We shall wait to see the outcome of these proposals, however any steps which can be taken to make uncontested divorce less acrimonious must be a positive step forward.

This information provided in this article is not intended to constitute legal advice and each relationship breakdown requires careful consideration in our view by a fully qualified Solicitor before decisions are made and before you embark on a certain course of action.

Shak Inayat
Solicitor
0207 183 2898

Intestacy Laws Are Changing

Intestacy is the law which governs anyone’s estate who dies without a valid Last Will and Testament in place and the intestacy laws distribute the deceased person’s estate between any surviving spouse, children or relatives.

These laws are quite outdated and have meant that spouses were often only given half of their partner’s estate, however changes to the law means that this will no longer apply.

So what does this mean for the family of someone who dies without a valid Will and does it mean that making a Last Will and Testament is now pointless?

In a word, no. It is very important to make a Will to ensure that your wishes are honoured, but also to protect your spouse and your children. A Will is particularly important if you are not married or in a civil partnership as the law of intestacy makes no provision for ‘common law’ partners.

In addition to making a Will, you should also ensure that your Will is regularly updated with any births, deaths, divorces or changes in family circumstances. Often, it is these small changes which are missed which can cause serious family disagreements after death and mean that your wishes are not accounted for.

So what do these changes to the intestacy law incorporate? The reforms to the law, which are being made by the Inheritance and Trustees’ Powers Act 2014, include the passing of the whole estate to the surviving spouse if there are no children. The legislation also seeks to simplify the distribution of assets between children and their parent and any remaining relatives who inherit under the law.

These reforms include changes to inheritance by children who lose a parent and are subsequently adopted and are also intended to assist unmarried fathers who lose out under current laws if their child dies intestate.

These changes are to be introduced on 1st October 2014, and whilst they go some way to making the process of intestacy less painful, this is no replacement for the provision of a Will which can be used to ensure your wishes are carried out, but can also be a powerful tool to reducing the inheritance tax burden on your loved ones.

This information provided in this article is not intended to constitute legal advice and each relationship breakdown requires careful consideration in our view by a fully qualified Solicitor before decisions are made and before you embark on a certain course of action.

Shak Inayat
Solicitor
0207 183 2898

What Can I Do If I Have Been Excluded From A Will?

Dealing with the emotions and grief of losing a loved one can be difficult to come to terms with, but this may be magnified if you feel that you have been unfairly excluded from your loved one’s Will.

Many people do not discuss their Will with their family before they die, which can lead to misunderstandings when the Will is read. Yet, is there anything you can do if you have been excluded from a Will?

You will need to establish if you have a valid claim against the Will and this will depend on a number of things. First of all, if your loved one had a financial responsibility for you and leaving you out of the Will means that you are no longer taken care of, you may be able to make a claim. You may have a claim if you are a spouse, child or even an elderly parent.

In addition, there are circumstances where the validity of the Will itself may be called in to question. If the Will was changed shortly before your family member died and resulted in everything being left to only one person or if the Will does not comply with the legal requirements of a Will it may be invalid. A Will must be witnessed and signed correctly and any witness cannot be a person who stands to financially benefit from the Will. If any of these parts of the Will are not correct, there may be a valid legal challenge.

If your loved one was ill and lacked capacity when their Will was drawn up, there may be a case for the Will to be challenged on these grounds.

When making the decision to challenge a Will, you should carefully consider the impact on you and the rest of your family. Any legal challenge is likely to cause a rift in your family which may not be reconcilable.

By speaking to a specialist Wills and Probate solicitor, you will be able to determine the likelihood of a successful claim and you can decide if you want to make a legal challenge to the Will.

This information provided in this article is not intended to constitute legal advice and each relationship breakdown requires careful consideration in our view by a fully qualified Solicitor before decisions are made and before you embark on a certain course of action.

Shak Inayat
Solicitor
0207 183 2898

Courts Split Over Assisted Death

Assisted death is a controversial subject which brings rise to many differing opinions in society. There have been a number of high profile cases going through the courts asking for a ruling on the right to an assisted death, such as Tony Nicklinson who, following a stroke, was completely paralysed. He was denied his request by the courts, after which he refused food and died in August 2012, a week after his High Court appearance.

Tony Nicklinson’s widow Jane decided to appeal the decision by the High Court along with Paul Lamb, who has taken over Tony Nicklinson’s case. Mr Lamb was paralysed in a car accident in 1990 and has been in constant pain, needing 24 hour care since his accident.

His statement to the court said “I feel worn out and am genuinely fed up with my life. I feel I cannot and do not want to keep living. I feel trapped by the situation and have no way out. I am fed up of going through the motions of life rather than living it. I feel enough is enough.

Currently a doctor cannot help anyone to die without facing a murder charge because the current law says it is an offence to encourage or assist a suicide.

However, the Supreme Court now has to decide if the law, which says it is an offence to assist suicide, is actually in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. Mrs Nicklinson and Mr Lamb are asserting that the current law denies the right to end your life when and how you choose with the help of a medic, if you are unable to do so yourself.

There is a split between the Supreme Court panel currently and although they heard the case from Mrs Nicklinson and Mr Lamb in December 2013, there has still been no ruling. The Supreme Court’s current legal term finished at the end of May, without any judgment in the case in sight.

It is clear that the decision which the Supreme Court is facing, to allow a ‘dignified and humane death’ for people who wish to end their life but cannot do so themselves, is an important one which will take time to reach.

This information provided in this article is not intended to constitute legal advice and each relationship breakdown requires careful consideration in our view by a fully qualified Solicitor before decisions are made and before you embark on a certain course of action.

Shak Inayat
Solicitor
0207 183 2898

Are DIY Wills A False Economy?

Writing your own Will has become quite a popular idea, especially since the economic downturn, with many people looking to cut costs in all areas of their lives. Most people consider the use of a ‘Do It Yourself’ Will kit to be completely safe, but is this really true?

Whilst writing a Will with a DIY kit may seem like an easy thing to do, the reality is not so straight forward. The consequences of your cost savings may not come to light until after you die, when the results could be devastating for your family members.

There are many simple mistakes which can be made using a DIY Will kit and whilst they may seem relatively minor, in reality, they can render your Will null and void and mean that you die intestate, leaving the Government to determine how to divide your estate.

The effects of dying intestate can mean that your spouse will only inherit a percentage of your total estate, which could result in financial issues which were completely unintentional on your part.

In addition, if both you and your partner die and your children need a legal guardian, if your Will is not valid due to a mistake you made when writing it, your children may be placed into care and a court will decide where they will live without any of your wishes being considered.

Some of the more common mistakes made when drafting a DIY Will are:

  • Signing a Will and using witnesses who stand to inherit from the estate (meaning that they will be unable to do so);
  • Not updating a Will properly following births, marriage or divorce; and
  • Not having a tax efficient Will, meaning more inheritance tax is payable than might otherwise be necessary.

So you can see that making a Will yourself exposes you and your family to a certain amount of risk of your Will being invalidated as a result of any mistakes or omissions you’ve made. Therefore, using a specialist solicitor to draft your Will for you will protect your loved ones and ensure that their future is safeguarded once you die. In most cases this will be a small price to pay in comparison to the risks of a DIY Will.

 

This information provided in this article is not intended to constitute legal advice and each relationship breakdown requires careful consideration in our view by a fully qualified Solicitor before decisions are made and before you embark on a certain course of action.

Shak Inayat
Solicitor
0207 183 2898

Same Sex Marriage And The Law

At the end of March, the first same sex weddings took place in England and Wales with David Cameron confirming his support saying that it demonstrated Britain’s ‘proud traditions of respect, tolerance and equal worth’.

Whilst equality in marriage may divide opinion, in addition to this there are implications for the laws around marriage in England and Wales with the introduction of same sex marriage.

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 allows same sex couples in England and Wales to:

  • Marry in a civil ceremony
  • Be married by a religious organisation which agrees to undertake the ceremony
  • Convert any civil partnership into a marriage if they wish to
  • Allow an individual to change their gender without needing to end their marriage

The Act also protects any religious organisation from having to carry out same sex marriages if they do not wish to.

So these amendments all seem relatively straight forward and they are, but there are some exceptions that do not apply to same sex marriages.

The first exception is that same sex couples will not be able to divorce on the grounds of adultery, because the law defines adultery as a sexual relationship outside of marriage with someone of the opposite sex. The second exception is that a same sex marriage cannot be annulled on the grounds of non-consummation.

In addition to these exceptions, pension rights are currently not equal, but this will need to be reviewed and reported on by the Secretary of State by 1st July this year.

This also brings into question the place of civil partnerships in England and Wales and whether couples of opposite sex should be allowed to have a civil partnership rather than just the option to marry. Again, the Secretary of State will need to review this and consult on the options.

As the law only applies to England and Wales, same sex marriage is currently treated as a civil partnership in Northern Ireland. Scotland is currently debating this issue in the hope that it also becomes law there.

 

This information provided in this article is not intended to constitute legal advice and each relationship breakdown requires careful consideration in our view by a fully qualified Solicitor before decisions are made and before you embark on a certain course of action.

Shak Inayat
Solicitor
0207 183 2898