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Giving Away Your House

We are often asked to recommend arrangements where parents, anticipating perhaps the possibility that they will need nursing home care, decide to give their house to their children. They wish to protect it from a possible claim by any one of several authorities for the cost of the provision of the nursing home care.

Our advice is and has always been that any such arrangement, however framed, is liable to challenge by the local authority, or by some other other public body, and that success cannot be guaranteed. Indeed an arrangement which gave effect to a desire expressed as above would be almost be bound to fail if challenged.

Support for this view is provided by a Scottish case, Yule v South Lanarkshire Council, reported in the Times on May 18th 1998. Although the case is a Scots case, the regulations it interprets are also the English ones.

In this case a Mrs. Yule transferred her house to her granddaughter for a nil consideration. reserving a life interest to herself. At the time she was in good health. Fifteen months later, after a bout of ill health, she applied for assistance with nursing home fees. The first enquiry from the local authority related only to property disposed of within the previous six months. When the fact of the transfer became known to the local authority. They decided to include the value of the property which she had given away as part of her resources. This meant that she had more than the £16,000.00 limit and they therefore withdrew further financial support from her. This would continue until her 'deemed' resources fell below that level. The Court decided that this was proper. Under the National Assistance Regulations (where there was an extremely complicated link between the various acts and regulations) the six month time limit, which applied in one part of the regulations, did not prevent other parts of the regulations being not limited in time in the same way.

There are many different schemes of this nature, and different local authorities, and different people. One person may escape such a charge, but the next may not. The case makes clear what has, in reality, been long understood. Those people who do escape the charge must consider themselves fortunate and no more.

Important: Please note that our law-bytes are retained for archival purposes only. The law changes, and these notes are often, now, out of date. You must take direct advice on your own personal situation and the law as it currently stands.
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18 October 2013 140 18 October 2013