By Paul Lewis
If you live alone and own your own home then its value will normally count as part of your assets if you go into a care home and leave it empty.
That will usually mean you have to pay for your own care-home fees. But if you are a couple things are very different. If one of you goes into a care home, the value of your home is ignored as long as your partner still lives there.
You do not have to be married for this rule to apply. The savings and investments of the person going into care will be assessed and if they are below a lower threshold of £14,250 (in England and Northern Ireland) they will be ignored completely and all the fees will be paid.
If they are above an upper threshold of £23,250 (England/NI) no help with fees is given.
Between the two, most of the fees will be paid by your local authority, but a weekly contribution of up to £40 is expected.
If you have jointly owned assets, then half of them are counted as belonging to each partner. However, it’s better if you can hold your savings or assets in separate accounts.
For example, a couple with £50,000 in a joint savings account will be assessed as each owning £25,000. That is above the upper threshold, so the person who goes into care will not get help with their fees. If the couple pends £3,500 paying those fees, savings will fall to £46,500, which will count as £23,250 each and the person in the home will start to get some help.
However, if that £50,000 is split beforehand so that each partner owns £25,000 in separate accounts, then the person in the home has £25,000 and only needs to spend £1,750 on fees before their capital is down to the threshold where help begins.
So it is better to split jointly owned savings equally into two separate accounts. In Scotland, the upper threshold is £27,250, the lower £17,000. In Wales, there is one threshold of £40,000. All fees are paid below that, none above. Paul Lewis presents Money Box on Radio 4.