Getting older is a fact of life and it may be a time in your life when you can embrace new activities and new ways of living. I read recently that we live until we die which I thought was a nice sentiment. However, for many people, there is a period in between life and death that comes with a requirement for care. This can be in hospital, at home or in a care home. For some, a move into care is a blessing and to be enjoyed. For others, it is viewed with trepidation and consequently some older people consider alternatives such as sharing a property with a group of like-minded friends. Share the bills, share the care, share the friendship is the admirable sentiment behind these plans.
However, the older we get, the more complex our lives become and this means that there are some key points to consider when looking at the idea of shared living:
Renting or buying – whether you intend to buy or rent a house there are numerous issues regarding ownership/tenancy agreements that need to be ironed out from the outset. These include who will deal with the landlord if the property is rented, how maintenance and repairs are to be funded and dealt with and what happens if someone wants to sell or dies. It is always sensible to address these and similar issues at the beginning, and record the agreement in writing. If you are co-owners a formal Declaration of Trust might be needed.
Carers –If you are employing carers there should be a clear contract between the care provider and the person receiving care covering what care is to be provided and at what rate. If you are employing carers, rather than them working on a self-employed basis, then you will need to take into account the relevant employment laws.
Finances – Careful consideration needs to be given to these as not everyone will have the same level of income or capital. Will everyone be able to afford to contribute to the ‘kitty’? What happens if there are unforeseen issues – who will bail you out?
Residential care – if, despite your best endeavours, it became necessary for you to move into a conventional care home, your share of any co-owned property, if the other residents are aged over sixty, will be left out of your financial assessment. Whilst this may be good news in protecting your share of the house from paying care home fees, if you cannot realise your share in the property you might not be able to afford to live in the care home of your choice. Thorough planning at the outset will avoid this occurring.
Personal relationships – do you know everyone you are moving in with? And their families? Bear in mind that living day-to-day with anyone requires compromise, and can be trying at times!
Capacity – living together in this way can be fulfilling and enriching, but everyone should give thought to what happens if they lose capacity. Again this needs to be thought about at the beginning. Perhaps it should be a condition of moving in that everyone has addressed this potential problem and appointed a suitable attorney to act if he or she is unable to deal with his or her affairs in the future.
With careful planning, and taking advice where necessary, living in this way could be a viable, and life-enriching, alternative to more conventional forms of care. Just as with most things in life though thinking ahead is the key to success.
Clarke Willmott LLP is a national law firm specialising in eldercare law and financial issues including care fee funding, Powers of Attorney and Court of Protection. If you’d like expert advice on legal matters for call Heledd Wyn on 0845 209 1495 or email more information.