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When I am helping elderly or infirm clients, I frequently come into contact with a “Christine”. This is the name of a lady who helped my grandmother in the later years of her life. There is often a Christine who visits my clients, they help with all kinds of things such as shopping, cleaning the house, hospital appointments, going to the post office to pay bills etc. In the case of the Christine that I knew, she had actually been my grandmother’s hairdresser and later friend. She gradually became more involved in helping my grandmother as her ability to get out and about deteriorated.
For many of our clients, there are no close relatives or they may be living abroad or they never visit. After all, if your nearest relative is a niece or nephew you may have seen little of each other over the years; you have been busy living your own lives. Christine may be a helper from church, she or he may have been employed initially as a cleaner but gradually has in effect become a carer. Often they don’t see themselves as a carer, rather a helper. However, it is often the case that this helper can only do so much, they may have gone on for years assisting but eventually it becomes too onerous for them or for the person they are helping. That is why they contact me.
That’s when they contact me. The first thing that I always check is to make sure that the house is still insured. In a large number of cases, it is not. Or it may have been insured but now my client is in a care home, therefore the house is empty. In that case, the insurance needs to be converted to empty house insurance. This comes with different obligations, such as regularly visiting the property or turning the water off.
I then need to make sure that there are not lots of unnecessary standing orders and direct debits leaving my client’s bank account. If you can’t get out of the house should you still be paying to your National Trust membership? If you are now paying care home fees do you wish to be spending money on collectors coins every month, do you want your money to be going to every charity that contacted you by telephone? Is that a good use of hundreds of pounds of payments every month? If you are no longer in your home is it necessary to have the telephone line active?
Many people I come across are still paying full council tax on their home, yet their spouse may have died, so they should be on a single persons‘ system discount. Or they are no longer living at home so other discounts should apply. If someone is a vulnerable adult then he or she should not be paying any council tax.
If the house is empty then water rates should not be paid, even if the water is still switched on. I have often recovered hundreds of pounds on behalf of clients by way of backdated claims in relation to council tax and water rates.
My other top tip relates to Attendance Allowance.
You can claim this if you are over sixty-five and have an ailment that means that you need regular help during the day, at night or both. This is payable even if you don’t have that help now. The idea is that you can claim the benefit, at £57.30 per week if you need either day time or night time help or at the rate of £85.60 per week if you need help twice a day.
There is not a specific list of ailments, it can be something as simple as needing help to get dressed, or to prepare food or to be helped up and down the stairs. The idea is that you obtain the money and then you can spend it how you see fit in order to obtain the help that you need.
You cannot claim Attendance Allowance if you are in a care home and the state is paying for your care. However, you can claim it if you live at home, live with your relatives or live in a care home and are paying for your own care.
Please note, if you or your relative/friend is in receipt of Attendance Allowance and spends more than 28 days in hospital then the DWP must be informed. Otherwise, they will claim back the money later for any days over 28 that are spent in a hospital.
Of course, many of my clients have not attended to any of the issues above, after all, they are struggling just to get by. Empty house insurance is not a conversation that crops up on a regular basis.
It usually follows that there is no Lasting Power of Attorney in place either. It probably hasn’t mattered until now but once you can’t get to the bank anymore, or you can’t ring the bank, perhaps because of speech problems, then your banking is going to become rather a mess. Can you keep track of your accounts, if they are online does anyone else know that the accounts exist? Do you know whether your savings have dropped to a level whereby you would be entitled to free care home fees?
Appointing an attorney, whether that is a professional such as a solicitor, or your family assist you all to deal with social services, banks, utility companies etc.
If you or your friend/relative need help with any of the issues I have raised here then please don’t hesitate to contact:
Lasting Power of Attorney Solicitors Newcastle: 0191 284 6989
Lasting Power of Attorey Solicitors Sunderland: 0191 567 6667
or email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or complete our Online Enquiry Form and select Lasting Power of Attorney
You can also park opposite our Sunderland Office on John Street.