WITH an aging population, an increasingly common concern now facing many families is the funding of care home fees.

Moving an elderly family member into a care home can be a stressful and emotional time for anyone, often made worse by the financial worries of how it is going to be paid for.

Many people needing long-term care are forced to sell their family home and drain every last penny of their savings, often leaving their family with little or no inheritance when they pass away.

Consequently, we are increasingly coming across situations where families have tried to avoid their assets from being swallowed up by care home fees but this has landed them in difficulties as they have been found to have deliberately disposed of assets.

When carrying out a financial assessment for residential care, the local authority will consider not only currently owned assets, but previous owned assets too (known as notional capital).

Deliberate deprivation occurs in situations whereby an individual has disposed of their capital assets and/or savings or even spent money on luxury or non-essential items knowing that they are or will be imminently responsible for care home fees.

When considering whether a disposal was "deliberate", the local authority will consider the person's intention and the timing of the gift.

It will consider whether, if when the gift was made, the person could have reasonably known that they might need care.

Suspicions will almost certainly be raised if, for example, on falling ill, a person transfers their property or life savings to a family member or friend.

If the local authority concludes that a person has deliberately disposed of assets, they may be able to claim care costs from the person that the assets were transferred to.

There is an appeal process in place for those who consider that the local authority have reached the wrong conclusion however, it is lengthy.

It is always advisable to seek out both professional legal and financial advice before proceeding with any care home fee planning and an initial discussion with your estate planning solicitor will help you to make an informed decision about the best way to proceed.

Ashfords LLP is a national provider of legal and professional services, specialising in eldercare law including disputes relating to care fee funding.

If you'd like expert advice on such legal matters, please call the team on 0800 0931 336.