Understanding the Responsibilities of Next of Kin in Care Home Fees

Adam Hutchison

Making decisions about the care of a loved one can be an emotionally charged and challenging process. One of the primary concerns for families is understanding their financial obligations and legal responsibilities when it comes to care home fees. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the role of next of kin in care home fees, debunk common misconceptions, and provide practical tips for managing care home finances.

In this article:

The Legal Obligations Surrounding Care Home Fees

Before diving into the specifics of next of kin responsibilities, it's essential to understand the legal framework surrounding care home fees. In the UK, care home fees are typically calculated based on a means-tested assessment, which considers an individual's income, savings, and assets. Local authorities may provide financial support to those who cannot afford the cost of care, but this support is subject to eligibility criteria and specific thresholds.

It's important to note that the responsibility for care home fees ultimately falls on the individual receiving care, not their next of kin. However, family members may choose to contribute towards the cost of care through third-party top-ups or other voluntary arrangements. 

The Role of Next of Kin in Care Home Admissions

The next of kin plays a crucial role in the care home admission process. They may be responsible for:

  1. Assisting with paperwork and legal requirements, such as completing application forms and providing necessary documentation.
  2. Communicating with care home staff and healthcare professionals to ensure the resident's needs are met.
  3. Offering emotional support to their loved one during the transition to a care home environment.

While next of kin are often involved in the decision-making process, they are not legally responsible for care home fees unless they have voluntarily agreed to contribute financially.

Financial Assessment and Contributions

As mentioned earlier, care home fees are calculated based on a means-tested financial assessment. This process determines an individual's eligibility for local authority funding and the extent of their financial contributions towards care costs. Some factors considered in the assessment include:

  1. Income: Pensions, benefits, and other sources of regular income are taken into account.
  2. Savings and assets: Bank accounts, investments, and property are considered in the assessment.
  3. Capital limits: In England, there are two capital limit thresholds – £23,250 and £14,250. If an individual's capital exceeds the upper limit, they are expected to cover their care home fees entirely. Between the two limits, a tariff income will be calculated as a contribution towards care costs. If capital falls below the lower limit, the local authority will fund care costs, though the individual may still be required to contribute from their income.

It's important to remember that the next of kin is not financially responsible for these assessments or contributions unless they have specifically agreed to provide assistance.

Debunking the Myth of Next of Kin Liability

A common myth is that next of kin are legally responsible for their loved one's care home fees. This is simply not true. While family members can choose to contribute towards care costs, they are not legally obligated to do so. Any debts incurred for care home fees are the responsibility of the individual receiving care, not their next of kin.

In cases where a resident is unable to pay their care home fees, the local authority or care home provider may attempt to recover the outstanding amount. However, they cannot pursue the next of kin for payment unless they have explicitly agreed to contribute.

Third-Party Top-Ups: A Potential Solution

When a resident's income and assets are insufficient to cover their care home fees, a third-party top-up can be a viable solution. These agreements involve a third party (such as a family member or friend) voluntarily agreeing to contribute towards the cost of care. Third-party top-ups can help to bridge the gap between the amount funded by the local authority and the actual cost of care, ensuring that the resident receives the appropriate level of support and care they need.

Before agreeing to a third-party top-up, it's essential to understand the terms and conditions of the arrangement. The top-up payments must be sustainable over the long term, as the third party may be held responsible for the additional fees should they fail to maintain the agreed-upon payments.

Navigating the Legal Landscape of Care Home Fees

Understanding your legal rights and obligations is crucial when it comes to care home fees. Some key aspects to consider include:

  1. Power of Attorney: Establishing a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) can be helpful in managing the financial and legal aspects of care home fees. An LPA allows an appointed individual (known as the attorney) to make decisions on behalf of the person receiving care (the donor) if they become unable to make these decisions themselves.
  2. Debt Collection: If a resident is unable to pay their care home fees, the care provider or local authority may attempt to recover the outstanding amount. However, as previously mentioned, they cannot pursue the next of kin for payment unless they have explicitly agreed to contribute.
  3. Legal Advice: Seeking professional legal advice can be invaluable in understanding your rights and responsibilities in relation to care home fees. Solicitors specializing in elder law or care home fee planning can provide tailored guidance and support.

Tips for Managing Care Home Fees

Managing care home fees can be overwhelming for families. Here are some practical tips and strategies for tackling the financial aspects of care home living:

  1. Be proactive: Early planning can help to minimise financial stress and ensure that you're well-prepared for the costs of care. Research care homes, their fees, and funding options ahead of time to make informed decisions.
  2. Understand the financial assessment process: Familiarize yourself with the means-tested assessment and the factors that can impact care home fees. Knowing how the system works will help you to navigate the process more effectively.
  3. Explore funding options: Investigate available funding options, such as local authority support, NHS Continuing Healthcare, and benefits, to help cover the cost of care.
  4. Seek professional advice: Financial advisers and solicitors specializing in care home fees can provide valuable guidance and help you develop a plan to manage the costs.

Belmont Healthcare's Commitment to Support

At Belmont Healthcare, we understand the challenges faced by families navigating the care home fee landscape. Our dedicated team is committed to supporting you every step of the way, providing expert guidance and compassionate care. We strive to ensure that our residents receive the highest quality care and support, while also helping their families understand and manage the financial aspects of care home living.

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