Council fails to force sale of house to fund nursing care

By Lenore Rice

A local council has lost it's bid to force the sale of a property belonging to an elderly woman who was taken into a nursing home.

Mary Walford, aged 92 from Worcestershire, was admitted to the Astley local authority care home towards the end of 2006. Her ability to contribute to the cost of her care and accommodation was assessed and focus quickly turned to the the property she owned. Her daughter Glen argued that the house should not be taken into account because she also lived there and had spent a lot of money on maintenance, including a recent spend of £40,000. Her job meant that she travelled a great deal and she also rented a flat in London, but she maintained that she kept a bedroom and office at her mother's house.

Glen Walford's objections were rejected by Worcestershire who said they would register a charge against the property, claiming she used the property as a holiday home and not a permanent residence. The High Court ruled that the sale of the property could not be forced to fund Mary Walford's nursing care because of the wording of the National Assistance (Assessment of Resources) Regulations 1992, which says the value of property should be disregarded for a residential care fees assessment where it is 'occupied in whole or in part as their home by the resident's other family member or relative who is aged 60 or over'.

Thousands of families in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK are thought to be struggling with the rules around the funding of nursing care for elderly relatives, with many coming under pressure to sell properties when other funding options are actually available. There is still a large lack of awareness of funding schemes that exist, and it is estimated that 40,000 properties are sold each year to pay for care home fees. As a result, 3 out of 4 people who's parents require long-term care lose almost all of the inheritance that was intended for them.

If you require advice about estate planning, will writing, tax planning, and other matters relating to the payment of care home fees, contact Wilson Nesbitt in Northern Ireland by calling 0800 840 9293.