In a cautionary tale for those who care for elderly relatives, the heirs of a dementia sufferer are in danger of losing their inheritance after failing to convince a Land Registry Adjudicator that the value of the man’s home should be protected against being eroded by care home charges built up during the final four years of his life.

The deceased’s estate, valued at £82,000, was almost entirely made up of the equity in his home. The relevant local authority had registered a unilateral notice against the property in order to recoup the costs of providing him with residential care under the National Assistance Act 1948.

In seeking to have the notice lifted, the administrator of the estate argued, amongst other things, that the deceased’s advanced dementia meant that he did not have the mental capacity to consent to being placed in residential care. It was also submitted that his daughter had a beneficial interest in the property, having given him gratuitous care and having been promised that the property would be left to her.

However, in dismissing those and other arguments, the Adjudicator found that the deceased could not have stayed in his own home and that he had ‘availed’ himself of residential accommodation provided by the council. Despite the daughter’s claim on her father’s bounty, there was ‘nothing unconscionable’ in the council seeking to recover its costs by registering security against his home. He had been the absolute freehold owner of the property and there was nothing unfair in the council being given priority over the estate’s other creditors.

Lack of forward planning regarding potential costs of elderly care services can decimate an estate. For advice on the appropriate steps to take in your circumstances, contact a member of our Wills & Probate team.