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If you have an elderly relative who is resident in a residential/nursing home it may well be that you have been asked to contribute towards the cost of their care.

Claire Davis, Solicitor and Partner in charge of the Elderly Client Department at Howells Solicitors with offices in Cardiff, Newport, Swansea, Caerphilly, and Talbot Green believes that, in many cases, these charges are being sought without foundation and that, in some circumstances, the Local Authority are ignoring their obligation to meet the higher charges.

Claire says “The area of third party contributions is complex but it is often the case that an individual is placed in a home, and funded by the Local Authority, where the weekly charge is higher than the contract rate paid by that Council. In such circumstances investigation needs to be made as to whether or not there were any other suitable alternative homes which would provide the same level of care in the best interest of the individual concerned. Where another suitable home is available and is cheaper then it is quite legitimate for the Council to seek what is known as a third party contribution from the liable relatives of the resident. However, in many cases, there may be substantial arguments as to why the home, chosen by the Local Authority, is the only home suitable for the resident’s needs.

Where an individual is being funded, by the Local Authority, there are rules and regulations which make it quite clear that the Local Authority cannot demand “top up” fees from a liable relative unless the proper procedures have been followed.

Claire continues “It has come to my attention, over recent months that, in addition, there are individuals (who have been resident in homes for some time and are now being funded by the Local Authority after their savings have been depleted to the required level) who are not receiving the required assessments as to their needs in order to ensure that the third party fees are being charged legitimately.”

Care homes are finding it increasingly difficult to balance their books when the Local Authority rate is substantially below that which it takes to operate and manage a home efficiently. Without addressing the issues generally there will be many more homes that will close or many more individuals and their families who are applying towards the care of their loved one when they should not be doing so

Claire concludes “I am also concerned at the number of individuals who are very probably paying substantial top up fees (I have heard of one case of £90.00 a week) where the Local Authority have either failed to undertake an assessment or have simply relied upon the “ignorance” of those concerned on the basis that relatives will not want the risk of their loved ones being moved and will simply choose to pay even if this causes financial hardship?”

If you feel that you are being asked to contribute towards the care of your loved one and that you may have cause to dispute that claim and require further advice on the matter then Claire can be contacted at Howells on 01633 227960 or by email at

Planning for the future can be a daunting task and, whether you’re making a Will, organising nursing home care, or calculating Inheritance Tax, there are some important need-to-knows. Thankfully, law firm Howells has provided some answers to those burning financial questions that can often leave you scratching your head in bemusement.

1) How much do I have to leave before I’m required to pay Inheritance Tax?

The Nil Rate Band is currently £325,000 for each individual. It is unlikely that this will be increased before 2015. Above this figure tax is payable at 40% with certain exceptions.

2) If my spouse or civil partner did not use their entire Nil Rate Band, can the balance be carried over to my estate?

For deaths after 9th October 2007, all of the unused proportion of a deceased spouse’s / civil partner’s Nil Rate Band can be transferred to the individual's surviving spouse / civil partner for use on their death.

3) Should I still make a Will even if my estate does not exceed the Nil Rate Band?

You should make a Will to ensure that your wishes are honoured and your belongings will be distributed as you want when you die. Even if your estate is less than the Nil Rate Band you could still find that not all your estate passes to your spouse / civil partner and could even pass to people you do not know or like. A Will can also help protect your estate in the event of a second marriage or a survivor requiring some form of residential or nursing care.

4) Do I need a solicitor to make a Will?

Although it is possible to make a homemade Will or seek advice form unqualified and unregulated Will Writers, it is highly advisable to take professional advice, particularly to ensure that the formalities are observed. Particular difficulties can be experienced where there are children, particularly minor children, children from previous marriages, or mental health issues where trusts might be required. Solicitors are trained and experienced in giving advice and guidance on such matters, as well as implementing solutions to difficulties which arise.

5) Can I do anything in my lifetime to take better legal care of myself?

Wills do not take affect until death, but it may be advisable to consider making a Lasting Power of Attorney so that someone you trust can look after your financial affairs in a way which you would wish in the event of you becoming incapable of managing your affairs. This can also be extended to other areas of your life, such as medical treatment.

6) If I require care do I have to pay?

It is important that you or your family are aware of your rights when someone is admitted to a care home or requires some form of care as you may be entitled to financial assistance If someone needs 24-hour nursing care because their health care needs are, amongst other things, complex or unpredictable, NHS care is free at the point of delivery, whether you’re in hospital, at home, or in some form of nursing care. If that is the case the local health board should be responsible for costs and not the individual concerned. It is even possible to raise a challenge against the NHS after someone has died if it becomes clear that they were paying for their care when they should not have been.

Where nursing care is not an issue you should still make sure that you are not paying too much and that you are receiving all the benefits to which you may be entitled. Where you have less than £22,500 in capital then the council will assist in the payment of your charges. (2011/2012). This figure is “protected capital” and cannot be used towards your fees.

7) How can I ensure preservation of assets if I am already paying nursing home fees or will likely need to in the future?

Although in this scenario it is often impossible to deprive yourself of assets, advanced planning can sometimes help. However, it is important to remember whose money it is, and it may be unwise to transfer ownership of homes or cash as it may limit your options when choosing a suitable care home.

8) What can I do about it if I am concerned about these matters?

Call Claire Davis or her team at Howells Solicitors on 01633 227960.

Howells Solicitors is one of the leading law practices in South Wales, providing a full range of legal services to both corporate and individual clients.

The commercial conveyancing team at Howells Solicitors has helped Liberty Marketing, a Cardiff based online marketing agency, purchase commercial premises.

The 2000 sq ft office building formerly belonged to Costain plc and is a part of Cardiff Business Park in Llanishen, North Cardiff.

The premises, bought as an investment by Liberty’s managing director, Gareth Morgan, allows the business to continue its expansion and sees the business move out of the more expensive serviced offices where the company has been for the past 18 months.

Rhidian Hobbs, Partner and commercial property Solicitor at Howells, said "we were only too pleased to act on behalf of Liberty Marketing with the purchase of their first commercial premises and to help them achieve this significant milestone. We guided the client through not only the legal but also some of the practical issues surrounding leasehold commercial premises".

Gareth Morgan commented "Due to the location and the way the property was being purchased, the transaction was not straight forward. Rhidian and the team were very helpful and professional at all times and I couldn't have done it without their help. I am very pleased with how it worked out".

Spring may have come early this year – at least as far as the property market is concerned. The property portal, Zoopla, has seen inquiries rise to more than three times the number at the beginning of last year.

During the first four days of January, there were more than a million property searches on the site across the United Kingdom, more than double last year’s early tally.

March, traditionally one of the most important times of the year for house hunters and vendors, might have been supplanted if the initial surge of inquiries during recent weeks is anything to go by.

There are several theories as to why we are seeing an upturn in activity so early in 2011. One is that the autumn market, which used to be almost as important as the spring, has been squeezed by long summer holidays and the pre-Christmas run-up.

People have had time over Christmas and the New Year to prepare their houses for sale or to organise finance and draw up a shortlist of dream homes.

It has also been suggested that householders might be rushing to get their properties to market, under the looming spectre of the threatened double dip recession, which would see the British economy plunged back into chaos.

Howells Solicitors, with offices in Cardiff, Swansea, Caerphilly, Talbot Green and Newport, say they have seen an increase in market movement, regardless of the reason.

“Even though the property market is still subdued, by January 14 this year we had completed on two separate £1m transactions,” commented business development manager, Tristan Lewis.

“On one of these residential transactions we acted for the seller of a small holding on the outskirts of Cardiff. The other completion occurred where a local businessman and his family had purchased a property in a popular Cardiff suburb.

“We have also received a further instruction on a £1m property this week, which we expect to complete shortly.

“We are still some way off the levels of instructions we were receiving pre-August 2007, however we have had about a 25% increase in the levels of instructions we have received so far in January, corresponding with the numbers for the same period in January 2010.

“This is very encouraging and we hope this will continue to increase as we head towards the spring and the warmer weather.”

Kelvin Francis, RICS Wales spokesperson and director of Kelvin Francis Chartered Surveyors, agrees there has been an early surge this year – but is somewhat more reserved.

“There has been a rapid upturn in the level of inquiries and people are optimistic and upbeat about the market. But it is still early days as it is yet to be converted into an increase in sales,” he said.

“We have also been pleasantly surprised by the number of first time buyers expressing an interest in buying a home, which we were not expecting given the current difficulties obtaining a mortgage.

“People put their plans on hold over Christmas so we would normally expect an upturn in the New Year as they start to look ahead to the future.

“The signs are good but we are waiting to see if the high levels of inquiries will turn into the decisions which will generate sales. We are certainly hoping for lots more activity in the next couple of weeks.”

The above is taken from Welsh Homes magazine, part of the Western Mail on the 29th January. If you are considering buying a residential property then contact Howells Solicitors today. Our expert residential conveyancing team will ensure the entire process runs as smoothly as possible.

BBC programme examines the importance of making a will

In the UK alone, less than 50% of people make a valid will before their death, and too many times the estate can be passed onto the wrong people. A BBC programme called ‘Can’t take it with you’, which sets out to reaffirm the importance of making a will, is due to be aired on 14th January on BBC2 at 9pm.

Here at Howells Solicitors, we are experts in the field of will writing and offer our services at an excellent rate. If you die without making a will, there is a strong likelihood that your estate will be passed on to an undesired recipient, or even the Government.

Our specialist team of solicitors are waiting to help you through the process. We listen to you as an individual, ensuring your wishes and fears for your estate are given the full consideration they deserve. An expert solicitor, such as those at Howells, will be able to advise you on how to make tax savings, reduce administrative costs and avoid disputes.

Making a will also gives the peace of mind, as long as you keep updating it as circumstances change, as you will be in full control over the distribution of your possessions when you are gone. It is also an excellent method of ensuring your loved ones are protected.

Many individuals complain of not having the time or it’s something they simply haven’t got around to, but for those who die without a will it can sometimes take years to distribute their estate, causing prolonged distress for the family.

The common perception is that solicitors are expensive. However, at Howells Solicitors we complete the majority of wills on fixed fees. We spend the time to create you a bespoke and personalised will writing service at a very competitive price. Contact us now to find out exactly how we can help.

With effect from 15th February 2015 EU Regulations on Consumer Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) allow consumers who bought our services online to submit their complaint via an online complaint portal.

We are required under the regulations to provide our clients the following information:-
  1. Link to the ODR platform - please follow the following link for further information (
  2. Our contact email address in case of a complaint under the ODR regulation – Andrea Coombes