Where will I live if the person I care for passes or moves into a care home?
If we live with the person we care for (or are thinking about it) it can be helpful think about what happens when things change. Thinking about the future isn’t an easy task, especially if it’s about some we love passing away or going into a care home. But it’s important to understand the impact this might have on our home and our finances.
In the worst cases, we’ve met carers who have found themselves homeless at this point, or have very little, financially. This guide will hopefully help us ask the right questions, and make helpful choices to minimise future difficulties.
This guide is a tour of common scenarios and things we can do to protect ourselves. As it mentions the person we care for going into a care home or passing away, it may bring up some difficult feelings. So please be kind to yourself and reach out for help if you need it.
Depending on your situation, you may also like to read:
Understanding our housing rights
As unpaid carers, our lives can change when the person we take care of moves or passes away. These changes can affect where we live. Knowing our rights is really important.
To help with that, we've explained some common situations below:
If we're renting privately
There are different kinds of agreements for renting privately. The type of agreement we have affects what happens if the person we care for moves or passes away.
Joint tenancy agreement
This is when we have signed the rental agreement together (with the person we care for). If the person we care for passes away, the agreement usually shifts to us as the tenant who's still there. We need to think if we can handle paying the rent on our own or if we need to look at other options.
“I can’t afford the rent without his benefits. I face losing my home” - Member of the Mobilise Community
Sole tenancy agreement
A sole tenancy agreement is when only one person is listed on the rental agreement as the main tenant. If we signed the agreement by ourselves and the person we care for wasn't on it, the tenancy keeps being in our name. But we should think about whether we can afford to live there alone, especially if they were helping with the rent or bills.
Not listed on the lease
If we're not named on the rental agreement, and the person we care for passes away with no other names on the agreement, it gets a bit tricky. Since we're not on the contract, we might not have the right to stay there legally. But there are some legal rules called 'succession' that might help.
These rules can let us take over the rental and stay even if we're not on the lease. There are specific criteria we have to meet to do this, and some agreements might not allow it at all.
“I’ve cared for and lived with my Mum for 20 years. When she passed away, I was told I needed to leave the property in a matter of weeks. I was so distressed. Grieving, managing the funeral, trying to sort the house and trying to find somewhere to live. My Carers’ Allowance was about to stop too. It was a horrendous time. Please, please make sure your right to a home is protected before you end up here.” - Member of the Mobilise Community
What is succession?
Succession means that when the person who was renting a place moves out or passes away, someone else can take over the right to live there. But the rules for this can be different depending on the rental agreement. So, it's a good idea to understand these rules before we agree to sign anything.
If the person who was renting the place has died or can't live there anymore, their family members might be allowed to take over the rental agreement. This usually includes spouses, partners, and sometimes other close family who lived in the place as their main home.
If we want to take over the rental agreement, we’ll need to ask the landlord or the company that manages the property for permission. The landlord will then decide whether to let us take over. They might look at things like how we’re related to the person who used to live there, if we can afford to pay the rent, and if we can keep up with the payments.
If we’re approved for succession, we’ll usually take on the existing terms and conditions of the original tenancy agreement. This includes how much rent we pay and how long the agreement lasts.
What if I can’t afford the rent alone?
If it gets hard to pay the rent because of reasons like moving to a care home or losing someone, here are some things we can try:
Talk to our landlord: If we can't pay the full rent by ourselves, we can talk openly to our landlord. They might be okay with making a temporary arrangement or finding a solution that works for both of us.
Contact the benefits office: If we're getting Carer's Allowance or qualify for it, and our situation changes because of moving or losing someone, let the Carer's Allowance Unit know. Even if the person we cared for has moved out, but we're still helping in some way, we might still be eligible for benefits. We can continue to receive Carer's Allowance for up to eight weeks after they pass away.
Look for other financial help: Depending on our situation, we might be able to get help with housing costs. We can apply for this help on the government's website. We can also ask our local social services team for advice on other ways to get financial support
Think about downsizing: If it's too hard to afford the place we're in, we could think about moving to a smaller and cheaper place. This might mean finding a smaller home or moving to an area where the rent is lower and fits our budget better.
Look for a flatmate: If we can't cover the rent on our own, we could think about looking for someone to share the place with us. Before doing this, make sure to ask our landlord for permission.
Keep in mind that none of the above is easy, particularly when we’re experiencing grief. Of course, you’re always welcome to join the thousands of other carers in the Mobilise Community for support and connection.
What we can do as private renters to protect ourselves?
Add our name to the tenancy agreement: If we are not currently named on the contract. This gives us stronger legal rights to stay in the property if things change.
Check the succession rules in our rental contract: If we’re unsure, speak to our landlord. That way, we can understand if we’re able to take on the contract alone if the person we care for is no longer living there.
If we're living in a council house
Similarly to private renting, council housing offers a variety of rental types that can impact our future.
Joint tenancy agreement
If we were living together as joint tenants, the tenancy is moved to us as the remaining tenant if they pass away. It's important to think about whether we can afford to keep living there alone.
Sole tenancy agreement
If we signed the rental agreement on our own and the person we care for wasn't named on it, the tenancy keeps being in our name. But we should think about whether we can afford to live there alone, especially if they were helping with the rent or bills.
Not named on the lease
If the tenancy was only in the name of the person we care for, the council might allow us to take over the tenancy. There are two stages of this called 'first succession' and 'second succession' in council housing.
Council successions explained
When the original tenant of a council house passes away, a process called "succession" comes into play.
Here's how it works:
If the main tenant of the council house dies, their spouse or partner who lived with them at the time may be able to take over the tenancy. To be eligible, the spouse or partner should have been an official tenant, lived primarily in the property, and not have had any major breaches of the tenancy agreement.
After the first succession, there might be a chance for another family member to succeed the tenancy. This applies if the family member was living with the original tenant when they passed away. The rules for succession can differ based on the policies of our local council and our caregiving relationship.
To know our rights, we should get in touch with our housing officer. They’ll usually arrange a home to visit to discuss our succession options and eligibility.
To provide protection after their passing, the person we care for can apply for a joint council tenancy if we're married or in a registered civil partnership. If we're a cohabiting couple or related (like mother and daughter), we should have lived together in the property for at least 12 months before applying. This step can make succession easier in the future.
If we don't have legal rights to the tenancy and can't succeed, we might need to apply for new housing through our local council's housing register. They'll assess our housing needs and decide if we're eligible for a new home.
Secure vs. Flexible Tenancy explained
Local councils offer different types of housing agreements.
In the UK, if we’re living in a council house, the safest type of agreement is usually called a ‘secure tenancy.’ This type of agreement gives us stronger legal protection and helps us to feel more secure as a tenant.
This is especially important when we’re worried about what might happen if someone we live with passes away.
Secure tenancies are usually associated with local council housing and offer tenants long-term rights and stability. Under a secure tenancy, we have the right to remain in the property as long as we follow the terms of the tenancy agreement and do not breach any serious conditions.
Introduced in recent years, flexible tenancies provide local councils with more options for managing their housing stock. These tenancies have fixed terms (usually five to ten years), after which the council can decide whether to renew or end the tenancy. Flexible tenancies might offer less security compared to secure tenancies, but they still provide important housing rights.
Remember, rules for council housing can be different based on where we are. So, talk to the local council housing office. They can explain how to get a secure tenancy and what we need to do.
How we can protect ourselves in council housing
Consider if we can afford the rent alone. We may need to pay alone if anything were to happen to the person we care for.
Check whether our name is added to the tenancy agreement. Contact our local housing department and request to make this change if not.
Check the succession rules in our renting contract. Speak to our local housing team to see what might happen in the event of a change to our circumstances.
Check if we have the best type of tenancy. As mentioned earlier, secure tenancies give us the most rights.
Whether it's private renting or council housing, it's crucial to inform our landlord, letting agent, or local council about any changes in our circumstances as soon as possible. They can provide guidance on our individual tenancy agreement.
If we're unsure or have concerns, reaching out to a housing charity like Crisis can be helpful for advice and support. We can find our local team's details on their website.
Living in the person we care for's home
If we are living with someone who owns their house (with a mortgage) and they pass away or move to a care home, what happens to the mortgage depends on many things.
Some common scenarios include:
If we have a joint mortgage
If we are a joint borrower on the mortgage, the responsibility for the mortgage payments will fall entirely on us. In this case, the lender will typically require us to continue making the mortgage payments as agreed upon in the original mortgage contract. If we cannot afford these payments, we may need to look into getting a lodger, remortgaging or selling the property.
“We own our home outright, but our savings are in separate accounts. My wife has most in her name, and although we jointly spend the money - the care home financial assessment has assumed it’s all hers - I’m left with very little.” - Member of the Mobilise Community
If they have a sole mortgage and they pass away
If the person who owns the house had a sole mortgage, the mortgage debt will become part of their estate (everything owned by them).
When a person passes away, their estate goes through the process of ‘probate’, where an executor handles their finances. The executor will look at their assets, including the house, and use the assets to pay off any outstanding debts, including the mortgage.
How long it takes for this process to be completed will depend on the complexity of the estate and any legal requirements. Typically taking several months to a year. But this timeline can be longer in more intricate cases.
When it comes to how long we can stay in the house if they pass, it depends on different things - the mortgage terms, the person's will, any legal plans, and choices made by the person in charge of their finances (the executor). Often, the executor will talk to us about what's going to happen and give us a fair amount of time to find a new place to live that works for us.
If they have a sole mortgage and are moving to a care home
The mortgage on the property will still need to be paid as usual. If they can no longer afford to pay the mortgage due to the cost of care home fees, they may need to sell the property to fund their care.
If we own our home (and mortgage is paid off)
If we own our home, we might have questions about how we can protect our assets in the event of our partner or family member needing to pay for care.
Protecting our assets gives us a degree of financial stability, whatever comes our way in the future.
Here are some steps we can take to do just that:
For sole homeowners
Draw up a lodger agreement: If we’re a sole homeowner, a lodger agreement outlines the terms of the person we care for’s occupancy, including their responsibilities, financial contributions and duration of their stay. It also protects us legally and is often needed for tax reasons.
Protect our legal ownership: If we own the property, make sure a family member, spouse or friend’s move-in doesn’t impact our legal ownership rights. We can speak to a solicitor if we’re unsure. We could also consider creating legal documents such as a cohabitation agreement or family contract. These agreements can outline financial responsibilities, contributions to household expenses and how our assets will be handled if things change in the future.
Get a pre-nup or post-nup agreement: Depending on our situation, legal agreements like prenuptial or postnuptial agreements might help protect the property from being used to cover care costs.
For joint homeowners
If we’re living with our partner or spouse, it's important to think about how to keep our home and finances secure if one of us needs care or passes away.
When our partner needs care, the local authorities will conduct a financial assessment to determine how much they can contribute towards the care costs. They will look at our partner's income, savings, and assets, including the house.
Here’s how we can protect our home:
1. Set up a trust
Transferring ownership of the house to a trust can potentially protect it from being counted as part of our partner's assets for care cost assessment purposes. However, this can be complex and might have implications, so it’s worth getting legal advice.
2. Be tenants in common
Tenants in common is a way of owning a property together. If we’re ‘joint tenants,’ the property automatically goes to the other person if one of us passes away. But with tenants in common, we each have a share in the property.
In the event of their death, their share can go to whoever they choose in their will. This can help protect our home in the future. For example, if one person needs care and has to pay for it, the value of their share in the property might not be counted towards care costs. This means we can stay in our home. It's a good idea to make wills that say what happens to our shares in the property if one of us passes away. This way, we can be sure our wishes are followed.
3. Get power of attorney
Another way to protect our finances is to get advice on Power of Attorney. This lets us decide who makes decisions for them if they can't, due to illness or other reasons. This can be really helpful if they become unable to manage finances on our own.
If the home has had an equity release
If we’re living in a home with equity release and the owner (usually the person who released the equity) passes away, what happens next depends on the situation and the equity release terms. Different things could occur, like selling the property to pay back the equity release loan and interest.
If there's extra money after repaying the loan, it might go to the owner's beneficiaries. As a family member, we might have the chance to repay the loan and keep the property. In some cases, we might need to move out if the property needs to be sold. We can also talk to the lender about repayment options.
Inheritance and ownership
If we are a beneficiary named (someone who has been designated to gain something positive from a property owned by someone else) in the deceased person's will or are entitled to inherit the house, we may have the option to take over the mortgage and become the new owner of the property.
In this case, we would need to negotiate with the lender to transfer the mortgage into our name.
Our most-asked carer housing questions answered
Housing can be especially confusing for us. We’ve got our own set of questions and needs that Google can’t always give us straight answers to.
To clear things up a bit, we asked a solicitor specialising in wills and probates to answer some of the most commonly asked carer questions.
“How does equity release work?”
"There are two main types of equity release: lifetime mortgages or home reversion plans," explains James Briggs, a Wills and Probate Solicitor at Rotheras Solicitors LLP.
“With a lifetime mortgage, the homeowner takes out a loan secured against the value of the property, to be repaid only on death or when the homeowner moves out of the property. The compound interest over time means that typically the amount to be repaid on the homeowner’s death is significantly more than the amount borrowed."
"With a home reversion, the homeowner sells a share of their property to the provider, subject to a right to continue living in the property rent-free or for a nominal rent. This means the provider receives a share of the proceeds when the property is sold," he further explains.
Both products have eligibility criteria, requiring the homeowner to be over 55 for a lifetime mortgage or over 60 for a home reversion plan.
Briggs emphasises the importance of seeking financial advice before proceeding with equity release to ensure it's the best option for us and to identify the right provider.
“What happens to my parents’ house after they die?”
According to Briggs, the fate of our parent's house after their passing depends on whether they made a will and its contents. The will might specify a particular recipient or divide the assets among named beneficiaries (the people specified in the will), including the house.
"It's worth noting that in the UK, there is currently an inheritance tax relief for parents who leave their homes to their children or grandchildren, allowing up to £175,000 of the property's value (£350,000 for a married couple) to pass tax-free," he adds.
Briggs advises that the will should name an ‘executor’ responsible for carrying out the parents' wishes and dealing with debts and inheritance tax.
“If the property is subject to a mortgage or equity release, the provider may require its sale to repay the debt, unless other arrangements can be agreed,” he adds.
If there is no will, then ‘intestacy rules’ come into play, determining who should inherit. Generally, if our parent dies without a surviving spouse, their assets are divided equally among their children. If there is a surviving spouse, the distribution of assets can vary depending on the estate's value.
“What happens if I inherit a house from a parent?”
"When a beneficiary receives the house, the executor usually has paid any due tax and debts connected to the property," says Briggs.
But, situations can happen where there aren't enough funds in the estate to cover the expenses. In cases like this, we may have to take on the responsibility of paying any secured mortgage or equity release.
"If the beneficiary (i.e. an adult child) wants to avoid selling the house, they will need to raise the funds themselves, either from their assets or through additional borrowing," he clarifies.
Briggs also highlights that declining the inheritance is an option, particularly if the debts are bigger than the value of the house.
Practically speaking, we need to think about insurance, utilities, council tax, and other standard house-related costs before we inherit a home. If we’re considering renting out the property, it’s important to seek out advice from solicitor so we can understand the financials.
“I gave up my rented flat to move into my Dad’s house to help care for him. He’s about to go into a care home, as I can no longer meet his needs. Do I need to move out of his house? He owns it…”
"This question raises a few issues that need to be considered," says Briggs. "The first issue is: will the local authority (local council) expect Dad to sell the house to meet the cost of his care?"
"The guidance for local authorities states that they cannot take the house into account to calculate the cost of Dad’s care if it has been occupied by one of his children since before he went into care, and that child is themselves over the age of 60 or disabled.”
If the child is under 60, Briggs says that the local authority still has the discretion to disregard the property but would need to be persuaded that it is appropriate for them to do so (e.g., because there is no other housing available to the child).
"The second issue is: does the child have the right to stay in the property if Dad can no longer give permission?" This might apply if, for instance, Dad is living with dementia and has reached the point where he can no longer make an informed decision about his property.”
The answer to this will depend on whether the property has been disregarded as part of the financial assessment or not, and whether we have the authority to make decisions for Dad (such as a power of attorney).
In this case, we must make decisions in Dad's best interests. "It is possible that permission may be needed from the Court of Protection, and you should seek specialist advice about this," he adds.
“Mum has offered to sell her house and use proceeds to convert our garage into an annex. Are there any financial implications we need to consider?”
Briggs states that there are several implications to consider in this situation.
"Firstly, is there any possibility that Mum lacks the capacity to make this kind of decision? If there is any suggestion that this could be the case, you should seek advice about applying to the Court of Protection," he notes.
"Even if Mum does have the capacity, this remains a highly significant financial decision. Undertaking substantial improvements to your property is, on the surface, considered a gift (even if the improvements are intended for her benefit).
She should seek advice before proceeding with such a gift and carefully consider how this will impact other family members (e.g., beneficiaries of her will).
"We would generally recommend that, instead of treating this as a straightforward gift, a declaration of trust should be drafted to indicate that Mum is acquiring an interest in your property proportionate to the amount she is contributing. This approach offers her greater protection, facilitates fairness to all beneficiaries she wishes to provide for upon her passing, and reduces the potential for future disputes from discontented family members."
"Whether this arrangement is deemed a gift or a trust, it's important to note that, for inheritance tax purposes, a portion of your house will be regarded as belonging to Mum upon her death. This is due to the 'gift with reservation of benefit' rules, which prevent individuals from gaining a tax advantage by giving away property or funds while still enjoying benefits from the associated assets."
“Dad is moving into a care home, how will they assess his and Mum’s joint finances and is there anything Mum should be doing to ensure her own financial stability?”
"Dad's impending move to a care home raises questions about the assessment of his and Mum's joint finances and steps Mum should consider for her financial security," says Briggs.
"Firstly, it's important to note that the local authority typically treats joint assets as shared equally, unless there is substantial evidence to the contrary, like a declaration of trust," explains Briggs.
He adds, "Crucially, the local authority cannot factor in Mum’s assets when determining Dad's care costs. Moreover, they are obligated to disregard the family home's value as long as Mum resides there, regardless of joint or sole ownership."
In light of Dad's transition, Briggs advises, "It's wise to create a clear separation between Dad's and Mum's assets wherever feasible. This includes maintaining distinct bank accounts in their individual names. This not only facilitates accurate tracking of Dad's care expenses but also ensures that only his assets contribute to his care."
He emphasises that this separation aids in identifying the point at which Dad qualifies for financial assistance, typically when savings dip below £23,250.
Briggs suggests, "If Dad hasn't already taken this step, he should strongly consider establishing a Lasting Power of Attorney. This legal mechanism empowers chosen family members to manage his financial affairs and make crucial decisions about his health and well-being should he become incapacitated. If Dad is unable to do this himself, seeking legal assistance for a Court of Protection application might be necessary to appoint a 'Deputy' responsible for his financial management."
"In cases of marriage or civil partnership, Dad can allocate up to half of his pension to Mum, providing her with financial support," notes Briggs. "The situation becomes less straightforward for unmarried couples, warranting specific advice tailored to their circumstances. In instances where Dad is unable to manage his finances, his appointed Attorney or Deputy can oversee his financial matters, ensuring reasonable provision for Mum's needs while considering her financial dependence. This distinction is crucial, as it diverges from using Dad's funds for making gifts, which typically involves certain restrictions."
Briggs stresses the importance of a will, stating, "If Dad lacks a will, it's essential to rectify this promptly. And if he's unable to do so, Mum should seek advice about her position, particularly if their marital status differs. Additionally, Mum should review her own will, as a direct gift to Dad might render him ineligible for local authority assistance with care costs—assistance he could otherwise receive. Exploring the establishment of a trust in her will for Dad's benefit might present a more suitable solution."
“What practical steps can carers take now to avoid homelessness down the line?”
Carers may face housing challenges, especially if they have to stop working and move in with the person they’re caring for. Briggs suggests discussing potential arrangements with the person being cared for, such as giving us a share of the property or putting a formal license to occupy in place. However, caution should be exercised here, as other family members might object to receiving less.
Transparency and communication with all involved parties are key, and we should always seek independent legal advice before finalising any arrangement, particularly if the person being cared for lacks the capacity to make their own financial decisions.
“Does joint tenancy override a will?”
"Joint tenancy and tenancy in common are two types of joint ownership of property in English law," explains Briggs. With a joint tenancy, the surviving joint owner automatically inherits the deceased owner's share by ‘survivorship.’ However, they cannot leave their share to someone else.
In contrast, a tenancy in common allows each owner to have their share of the property, allowing them to distribute it in their will. Changing from joint tenancy to tenancy in common can be done by giving written notice to the other owner, and it is often done by professionals while drafting the will.
“What does succession mean in council housing?”
"Succession in council housing refers to the right to take over a local authority tenancy after the original tenant's death," explains Briggs. The new tenant continues living in the property but becomes responsible for the rent.
Succession is generally a one-time opportunity, and its availability depends on the type of tenancy held by the person who has passed away.
Briggs notes that succession might be available to a spouse, cohabiting partner, or other family members living with the tenant for an extended period. Our local authority will provide detailed information and forms if we’re eligible for succession.
More help with housing
This guide might have prompted further questions for some of us as we start to understand more about it. The support required can get quite specialist.
So below are some organisations that can help:
Crisis: Crisis is a charity that specialises in helping people facing homelessness. They provide comprehensive advice and support on housing-related issues.
Shelter: Shelter is another charity that offers expert advice on various housing concerns. They can assist us in understanding our rights and options.
Age UK: Age UK offers information and advice specifically geared towards older individuals, including caregivers, who may need support with housing-related matters.
Citizens Advice: Citizens Advice provides free, impartial advice on a wide range of topics, including housing. They can help us understand our rights and navigate through housing challenges.
Local council services: Local councils often have housing and social services departments that can provide information about available housing options, benefits, and support programs.
A final word…
It's important to know that we're not on this journey alone - and definitely not the first. There are organisations ready to offer us practical advice and guidance that match our unique housing needs and situations.
By tapping into these resources, talking with family, friends, and others who are also caring, we can feel more confident about making well-informed housing choices.
Feeling like a chat? Join our Mobilise Cuppas. These online video calls last around 45 minutes and connect you with about 12 other carers who are in similar situations. It's a chance to share experiences and support one another. We look forward to having you there!