Q Our house is now owned outright after 25 years of us both paying the mortgage but only my husband’s name is on the deeds. As we are getting older (he is 62 and I am 58), we are wondering whether it would be prudent to put both our names on the deeds in case one of us needs full-time care services. I don’t understand how much of the house the council may be able to take if he was to go into care or if I would have to sell the house to pay for it. Is there any way of protecting my half or should it be the other way round?
I have worked with a few people who have come across this dilemma as their partners have had dementia and eventually required a full-time care home, and have had to take measures to protect themselves from having to sell their home. I think they had to use the equity in their property but could not save their half even though it was willed to their children.
We have a will with our solicitors, and our daughter is the main beneficiary. I am looking into making her lasting power of attorney for us both, so should her name go on the mortgage, too?
A At the risk of sounding flippant, you haven’t got a mortgage to add your daughter’s name to – even if you wanted to – as your husband owns the house outright. But even if you were still paying a mortgage, there would still be no need to add your daughter to it once the power of attorney was in place because it would give her the power to deal with the mortgage on your behalf.
But back to the question of what would have to happen to your house if one of you went into a full-time care home. The answer is absolutely nothing. The council will not take any of it, nor will you be forced to sell it. When a local authority conducts a means test to see how much someone should contribute to their care costs, the means test does not include the value of a home that will continue to be occupied by the spouse or partner of the person going into care. You do not need to put the property into joint names, nor do you need to protect your potential half of the property. It might be an idea to put other savings and investments into joint names, however, as only the share of the person being means tested is included. So, if, for example, your husband had £30,000 in a sole savings account, the whole £30,000 would be included in the means test. If it was a joint savings account, only £15,000 would be included in his means test.
Finally, bequeathing a property to children – or anyone else for that matter – makes no difference whatsoever to whether its value is included in the means test or not.