Legacies for Carers
Official figures indicate that there are around 7m carers in the UK – that is 1 in 10 people. This is a figure that is rising and some estimate that by 2030 there will be a further 3.4m carers. 58% of carers are women whereas 42% are men, mostly looking after relatives. Most of those carers are completely unpaid and 1 in 5 carers give up their employment to look after a disabled person. Some 35% of carers have missed out on state benefits because they were not aware of their entitlement. Indeed, in one survey, 53% of carers borrowed money so as to fund their caring role – having used up all their savings and 23% either re-mortgage their home or downsize to a smaller property.
Not everyone appreciates the sacrifices that these unpaid carers make or the value they contribute to the economy. Carers UK recently estimated that value at £132bn per year.
Many of those being cared for are elderly, and on their death the carer is left having to rebuild their life. Not only will they have sacrificed any career progression, but often in order to go back into the workforce they would need to re-train. It is quite natural in those circumstances for the deceased to leave them a legacy.
However, on some occasions there will be a problem. It might be that the person being cared for has not made a will at all. This might be because the person did not have the mental capacity to make a will. In those circumstances we would advise a carer to seek advice so as to apply for a statutory will. However, in our experience, few do. If that is not done, then either an earlier will or the intestacy rules will apply.
If the carer is not close family however, the intestacy rules may not allow for them to have any legacy at all. If they are close family, there may be many people who are entitled to the same or a larger legacy. In these circumstances the carer may be entitled to take a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975. My colleague Oliver Jackson in his recent blog discussed who may take such a claim.
The amount that one would receive from such a claim depends on the individual’s need, the size of the estate and any competing claims. Expert advice should be taken before considering issuing such a claim, however, it is quite often the case that a claim can be brought under a no win, no fee arrangement.
If you are not next of kin or a dependant of the deceased, then a claim might be harder. In those circumstances it is important to get expert advice so as to consider whether there is an alternative claim. Many carers have at some stage had a conversation with a disabled person, who has encouraged them to care for them on the promise of some reward later. Those types of claims are called proprietary estoppel. They require a clear promise and someone acting in their determent in reliance upon that promise. Providing care has been found to be sufficient detriment in such cases, however it is a complex area of law. My colleague Alexandra Giles’ blog on this subject, provides more information.
In summary, it is best to deal with these issues during the lifetime of the person, as it is only too easy to put matters off, and recent events have shown that life is uncertain. However, there are remedies if one does find oneself excluded. Taking expert advice as to the right remedy is fundamental to achieving your proper entitlement. In some circumstances taking the wrong remedy can actually result in losses.
If you require any advice on any of the issues raised in this blog, please contact us on 020 7940 4000 or David_wedgwood@anthonygold.co.uk.
*Disclaimer: The information on the Anthony Gold website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. It is provided without any representations or warranties, express or implied.*