THE family of an elderly woman who transferred ownership of her home to avoid paying care fees has been told they will have to pay for her support.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has rejected a claim by the woman’s son that the house was gifted to him to get around inheritance tax and Dudley Council was wrong in asking him to pay towards her health needs.

But the authority had argued the real intention behind handing over the house was to avoid paying foreseeable care costs.   

An investigation by the Ombudsman found the council had acted within the law when it decided the transfer of the property was a ‘deliberate deprivation of assets’ and not for the stated purpose for avoiding taxes and probate costs.

Referring to the woman as ‘Mrs B’ and her son as ‘Mr B’ in his report, he said the woman was diagnosed with dementia in May 2014 when the council arranged a care programme so she could remain in her home. 

The council sent her son a financial assessment form to assess any charges but Mr B said he did not want to disclose his mother’s finances and he would pay a private firm to look after her.

Her house was transferred to him in October 2014 and Mr B told the Ombudsman there was no indication his mother would need residential care at that time and the reason for the transfer was she wanted to avoid inheritance tax and other costs on her death.

But in December that year her son asked the council for a list of care homes which the authority said countered his claim the need for more support was not foreseeable.

Following a fall in December 2016, Mrs B was assessed as requiring long term care in a residential setting.

Arguing they were right to ask her son to pay for her care the council said the reasons given were not credible as the house was valued under £325,000 and therefore not subject to inheritance tax.

It added Mrs B’s health was declining in 2014 and as the need for support was likely to increase there was a reasonable expectation there would be a need to contribute in the future.

In supporting the council’s decision the Ombudsman said:  “It considered the timing of the transfer, noting that Mrs B had already been assessed as requiring care and was in receipt of care before the transfer. It also considered Mrs B’s stated motivation for the transfer and explained why her stated intention was not credible (because she would not be liable for inheritance tax based on the value of her estate). “

He added: “There was no fault in the council’s decision that Mrs B gave her property to her son to avoid care charges.”