More than five million Britons regularly provide unpaid care and support for loved ones with disabilities or dementia, and often get scant financial reward for doing so. This can leave many feeling resentful and even trigger costly family disputes unless you get the money side right. The problem was highlighted by a recent court case where aspiring ballet dancer Lynsey Delaforte, 36, gave up her promising career to provide 24-hour care to dementia-stricken grandmother Joan Flood for seven-and-a-half years. She was paid just £100 a month, but when her beloved grandmother died the £650,000 estate was split between her two children, and granddaughter Lynsey got nothing.
Her uncle insisted care had been delivered under a contractual relationship but Central London County Court awarded penniless Lynsey £110,000 from the estate as a reward for her devoted care.She ultimately got what she deserved, but many people do not, and families need to make sure they are taking care of the carers as well.
Friends and Family
NHS England figures show that 5.4 million people provide unpaid care for friends and family and Gordon Andrews, tax and financial planning expert at Quilter, said the numbers will continue to rise as the population ages:“Carers may not expect anything in return but are often making great sacrifices and families must ensure they aren’t financially disadvantaged.”
Carers contribute an incredible £119 billion a year to the economy, equivalent to £18,473 per carer, according to charity Carers UK, and while most do it for love, they need practical and financial support in return.
Many families feel embarrassed talking about money but Andrews said you need to be open, particularly if moving into somebody’s home: “Be clear about any financial contributions from the outset, such as paying money towards rent,food, utility bills, travel expenses, medical costs and so on.”
Consider paying a regular allowance or stipend, particularly if someone is giving upwork or reducing hours to help you. Andrews added: “If you pay a commercial wage the income could be taxable, although it may reduce your estate for inheritance tax purposes.”
it is important to adjust your will to reflect any help: “Promising someone a share of your estate may not be enough if your will is outdated as it will be their word against a legally binding document.”
For more complicated cases, speak to a professional adviser about setting up a family trust to distribute your wealth.
Law and Order
Everybody should consider setting up a lasting power of attorney (LPA) while still of sound mind. This is a vital legal document that gives loved ones control over health and financial decisions if you lose mental capacity.
Nicola Bushby, senior associate at family solicitors Wilsons, said if you have set up an LPA, the attorney or deputy can arrange for “gratuitous care payments” to family members providing care for someone who lacks mental capacity. She said you should claim all state benefits, notably the Carer’s Allowance, available to those who earn less than £120 per week and spend at least 35 hours a week providing regular care: “This is worth £64.60 per week, which can ease the financial burden a little.”
Those who offer care for at least 20 hours a week may also claim Carer’s Credit,which plugs gaps in their National Insurance record.
If struggling financially, Bushby said contact your local authority, which has a statutory duty to help carers: “It may offer financial support for both the carer and the person being cared for.”
If you qualify, the money can be used to pay for care from a family member or professional. “Caring can be mentally and physically exhausting, and local authorities may also help carers, say, by funding gym membership, a laptop or even housework.”
Carers need to make their feelings clear: They must say that whilst happy to give up their career, they can only do so if they are paid.
It is better to address issues right at the start rather than leaving them to fester, as that could end up in a costly court case or disputed will.
Research from Direct Line Life Insurance shows that more than 12 million Britons would seek to dispute the bequests in a will, if they disagreed with the division of their estate.
Deborah Stone,founder of Mature Thinking.co.uk,which advises companies on products and services for older people, said carers make great sacrifices and do vital work for society, often putting their own lives on hold.
Talking to others in a similar position can help, and you should look for a local carers centre, which are usually run by independent charities, or visit online chat rooms, for example at the website Carers.org. “Sometimes it is important to be able to speak to someone who really understands what you are going through.”
Stone said trained volunteers on the Carers UK Advice line on 0800 808 7777 can help with everything from advice on claiming benefits to emotional support. Or contact the NHS Carers Direct Helpline on 0300 123 1053, which has social care helplines and forums.
If you are spending time caring for someone you love, you also need to take good
care of yourself.