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How do I protect my property for the future?

No one knows what their future holds; and in today’s world of blended families and ever-increasing care costs, it’s important to consider how you might protect your property after your death.

A simple Will stating what you want is not always enough to protect property inheritances for your family.

Most people who co-own their home with another person do so as joint owners. This means they both own the whole property. On the death of one of the joint owners, the home AUTOMATICALLY becomes the property of the survivor – they can then do what they want with it. This can, however, cause problems.

What if the survivor then re-marries? It is possible that the whole of the house will then pass to the new spouse on their death, thus disinheriting children of the first marriage. There are many recent examples of this happening where wealthy celebrities have died – the estates of both Paul Daniels and Bruce Forsyth received lots of publicity.

Another scenario is, what if the survivor has to go into a care home? As the property just has one owner, the Local Authority has the power to charge the cost of care against the value of the whole house – meaning that there would be nothing left for children to inherit.

What precautions can be taken to avoid this happening?

There is an answer to this problem. It is to change the way the home is owned whilst both owners are alive – from joint owners to Tenants in Common. This is a straightforward process that does not involve the mortgage company, even if the property is mortgaged. As Tenants in Common, each owner owns a share of the property (often a half share) and by using a Will Trust (a Life Interest Trust, also sometimes known as a Protective Property Trust), they can do whatever they wish with their share of the property on their death.

The idea of a Life Interest Trust is that you wouldn’t leave your share of your property to your partner – but you would leave them the right to live there until their death (or whatever date you specify). The survivor would not then own the whole property, just their half. This protects the 50% of the property owned by the person who has died, from possible care home fees or the new relationship scenario.

The survivor could only leave 50% of the property to their new partner. The 50% of the property belonging to the person who had died would be transferred into Trust, often for the benefit of children. The Trustees would then look after the 50% share of the person who had died, making sure the property is maintained and insured properly. If the survivor decides they would like to move out, they can do so as long as the Trustee agrees. If any monies are freed up by downsizing 50% belongs to the survivor, and they can also have access to the money belonging to the Trust fund if the Trustees agree.

There is also another simpler form of Trust that some people choose. It’s called a Right to Occupy Trust and these are commonly used where adult children live with their parents. This type of Trust gives the child still living at home the right to stay in the property after both parents die, without actually owning it. When the parents die he whole property is placed in Trust, often for all the children of the deceased – so when the Trust period ends the property can be sold, with the proceeds being shared between all the siblings.

Do be wary though, of taking any drastic action to avoid care costs. People sometimes think they can sell a house to a relative for a nominal fee, or even give it away, in order to transfer legal ownership. However, this could be seen as ‘deliberate deprivation’ and the sale could be reversed. Local authorities have the power to claim care costs from the person the assets were transferred to!

The local authority will ask about any previously owned assets, and take into account any reasons you’ve had to hand over assets or property to other people. They’ll consider timing, alongside any motive or intention, and also the fee.

As you can see, by making a few simple changes; sending a form to Land Registry (no fee applies for this) to change the ownership terms of your property and putting a Trust into your Will, you can protect your share of your property for your family.

Call A R K Lasting Powers & Wills now and take that ‘What if?’ scenario away.

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