When you have chosen the right care home for your loved one, the next step is navigating legalities, managing costs and figuring out where your responsibilities may lie as next of kin:
- There are a number of ways to pay for care homes. The most common funding options are self-funding, council funding and NHS funding
- Next of kin are not legally obligated to pay care home fees in the UK
- Although it is a common misconception that there is a 7-year rule surrounding the transferring of assets, unfortunately, this isn’t true. Ensure you and your loved one remain conscientious when transferring or handling assets
Once you’ve made the decision that a care home or nursing home is the best option for your loved one, your next task will be figuring out the various costs surrounding care. But one thing a lot of relatives want to know from a financial standpoint is: “Are next of kin responsible for care home fees?”
Understanding the Basics of Care Home Fees
Care home fees are calculated through a means-tested financial assessment which determines both the extent of financial contributions an individual can make towards care costs and their eligibility for local authority funding. Factors considered in the assessment include:
- Savings and assets
- Capital limits
Living in a residential care home will cost around £760 per week on average, whereas the average weekly cost for a nursing home in the UK is £960 – but care homes can cost over £1,500 per week depending on where you live or the level of care needed.
But who pays for care homes? There are three main ways in which care home fees can be paid:
- Self-funding: The care seeker or their family or friends choosing to pay for all of their care home fees
- Local council funding: The local council will pay for some or all of the care
- NHS funding: The NHS will pay for part or all of your care
Legal Responsibilities of Next of Kin
Are next of kin responsible for care home fees in the UK? A question asked by many when a loved one needs to move into a care home.
Next of kin do not have any legal obligations to pay for care home fees in the UK, nor are their assets taken into account during the means test.
If next of kin have joint assets (shared savings or property) with a care home resident, the local authority will only assess the individual’s half in their assessment.
When a care home resident dies, their care home will issue an invoice for outstanding care home fees. As next of kin, you do not have to pay these outstanding fees (unless you signed a contract stating you would), and the outstanding care home fees will be taken from the person’s estate.
If your next of kin had a deferred payment agreement, the fees become a debt owed to their estate which needs to be paid within 90 days of them passing away. The local authority may help with this process to reclaim outstanding care home fees after death.
If the council is paying for all or some of your care, top-up fees may be needed to make up the difference if choosing a more expensive care home.
But, who is responsible for care home top-up fees? They are generally paid by a relative, friend or charity, and once an individual agrees to pay a top-up fee, they will be asked to sign a contract with the local authority paying the care home fees.
Before agreeing to pay top-up fees, the council must be satisfied that an individual is able and willing to pay the fees for as long as they are needed.
When moving into a care home many residents wonder: “How can I avoid my house being used for care home fees?” It can be difficult to protect your assets legally, and it’s always best to seek legal advice from a specialist.
To try to protect their assets, people may:
- Make a lump-sum payment, possibly as a gift, to someone else
- Transfer the title deeds of their property
- Put their assets into a trust that can’t be revoked
- Buy an investment bond with life insurance
- Buy expensive items so they are disregarded as personal possessions
Although there may be valid reasons for your actions, the council will consider the motivation and timing and whether this is a deprivation of assets, which could cause difficulties for next of kin in the future.
The 7-Year Rule and Care Home Fees
It is a common misconception that there is a 7-year rule surrounding the transferring of assets; if someone gives away their money or property at least 7 years before moving into a care home, then those assets won’t be taken into consideration. Unfortunately, this isn’t true.
There is no time limit to the deprivation of assets, so any disposal of assets pre-care could be considered. However, local authorities must provide evidence of motive and consider whether the amount made a considerable difference to the capital limit of £23,250 in England, £50,000 in Wales, £32,750 in Scotland (which usually increases annually) and £23,250 in Northern Ireland. This will change to £100,000 in England in October 2025.
Options and Support Available
There are a number of alternative options available to help residents pay for care, including:
- Equity release
- NHS continued healthcare
- Attendance allowance
- Personal independence payment
- Personal budget from the local council
- Care annuity
- Long term care insurance
- Personal health budgets
- Care support grants
- Veterans funding for care
Frequently Asked Questions