Can I sell my house to my son to avoid care costs

As people age, the potential need for long-term care becomes a significant concern. The cost of care can be substantial, leading many to consider ways to protect their assets, including their home. One strategy some contemplate is selling their house to their children to avoid care costs. This guide will explore the implications, benefits, and potential pitfalls of selling your house to your son in the UK to avoid care costs, ensuring you make an informed decision.

Understanding the Cost of Care in the UK

Types of Care

  1. Home Care: Services provided at home, including personal care, domestic help, and medical assistance.
  2. Residential Care: Living in a care home, which provides accommodation, meals, and personal care.
  3. Nursing Care: Similar to residential care but includes medical care provided by qualified nurses.

Cost of Care

The cost of care varies depending on the type and location. On average:

  • Home care can cost £15 to £30 per hour.
  • Residential care costs around £600 to £800 per week.
  • Nursing care costs around £800 to £1,000 per week.

Means-Tested Assessments

Local authorities conduct means-tested assessments to determine who pays for care. Assets, including your home, are considered if you’re moving into residential care.

Selling Your House to Avoid Care Costs: Key Considerations

Legal Implications

  1. Deprivation of Assets: Local authorities can investigate if you have deliberately reduced your assets to avoid care costs. Selling your house to your son at below market value can be seen as deprivation of assets.
  2. Market Value: To avoid claims of deprivation, you must sell the house at market value. Any significant discrepancy can raise suspicions.
  3. Intent: The timing and intent behind the sale are crucial. If the sale occurs when care needs are foreseeable, it’s more likely to be scrutinized.

Financial Implications

  1. Capital Gains Tax (CGT): If your son later sells the house, he might be liable for CGT on any increase in value from the time he bought it.
  2. Inheritance Tax (IHT): If you die within seven years of selling the house, the sale could still be considered part of your estate for IHT purposes.
  3. Impact on Benefits: Transferring assets can affect entitlement to means-tested benefits, like Pension Credit or Universal Credit.

Practical Considerations

  1. Living Arrangements: If you plan to continue living in the house after selling it, ensure you have a legal agreement, such as a lease or life interest.
  2. Future Security: Selling your house to your son can impact your financial independence and security.

Steps to Selling Your House to Your Son

1. Seek Professional Advice

Consult with a solicitor and a financial advisor to understand the legal and financial ramifications. They can help structure the sale to comply with regulations and protect your interests.

2. Obtain a Property Valuation

Get an independent valuation of your house to determine its market value. This step is crucial for transparency and avoiding claims of deprivation of assets.

3. Formalize the Sale

Engage a conveyancing solicitor to handle the legal aspects of the sale. Ensure all paperwork is correctly processed, and the sale is documented at market value.

4. Establish Living Arrangements

If you plan to remain in the house, establish clear terms for your living arrangements. This can be done through a formal lease agreement or life interest, ensuring you have the right to live there.

5. Consider the Impact on Benefits and Taxes

Work with your financial advisor to understand how the sale affects your benefits and tax obligations. Ensure all implications are considered and addressed.

Legal and Ethical Considerations

Deprivation of Assets

Local authorities assess whether a sale was made to avoid care costs. They look at:

  • Timing of the sale relative to the onset of care needs.
  • The sale price relative to market value.
  • The intention behind the sale.

If deemed deprivation, the value of the house may still be counted in your financial assessment for care costs.

Market Value Transactions

Selling the house at market value is essential to avoid deprivation claims. Independent valuations and proper documentation can provide evidence of a fair transaction.

Legal Agreements for Continued Residence

If you remain in the house, legal agreements like leases or life interests protect your right to stay and clarify the terms of your residence.

Financial Implications

Capital Gains Tax (CGT)

When your son sells the house, he may face CGT on the increase in value from the purchase date to the sale date. This tax liability should be planned for.

Inheritance Tax (IHT)

If you die within seven years of the sale, the house’s value might be included in your estate for IHT. The amount of tax owed decreases over the seven years, known as taper relief.

Impact on Benefits

Transferring significant assets can affect your eligibility for means-tested benefits. Consult with a benefits advisor to understand the impact and manage your finances accordingly.

Case Studies

Case Study 1: Avoiding Deprivation of Assets

Background: Mary sold her house to her son, David, for market value. She did so two years before needing residential care.


  1. Valuation and Sale: An independent valuation was conducted, and the house was sold at market value.
  2. Living Arrangements: Mary moved into a smaller flat purchased with the sale proceeds.
  3. Care Needs: Two years later, Mary’s care needs increased, and she required residential care.

Outcome: The local authority reviewed the sale but did not consider it deprivation of assets since it was sold at market value and the timing showed no immediate anticipation of care needs.

Case Study 2: Facing Deprivation of Assets Claims

Background: John sold his house to his son, Michael, at a price significantly below market value shortly after a dementia diagnosis.


  1. Undervalue Sale: The house was sold for significantly less than market value.
  2. Care Needs: John needed residential care within six months of the sale.

Outcome: The local authority determined the sale was deprivation of assets, as the timing and undervalue sale indicated an intention to avoid care costs. The full value of the house was considered in the means test for care funding.

Alternatives to Selling Your House

1. Equity Release

Equity release allows you to access the value of your home without selling it. Common options include lifetime mortgages and home reversion plans. This can provide funds for care without transferring ownership.

2. Gifting the House

Gifting your house to your children can also be seen as deprivation of assets if done to avoid care costs. If not, it must be done well in advance of foreseeable care needs, typically more than seven years.

3. Care Annuities

Care annuities, or immediate needs annuities, provide a guaranteed income for life to cover care costs. These can be purchased with a lump sum and may offer peace of mind regarding care funding.

4. Trusts

Placing your house in a trust can protect it from care costs, but this needs to be done well in advance of needing care. Trusts can be complex and require professional advice.

Practical Tips for Managing the Process

  1. Early Planning: Plan well in advance of potential care needs to avoid issues related to deprivation of assets.
  2. Professional Advice: Engage with solicitors, financial advisors, and benefits advisors to navigate the complexities of the process.
  3. Clear Documentation: Maintain clear and thorough documentation of all transactions and valuations to provide evidence of your intentions and actions.
  4. Transparent Communication: Communicate openly with family members about your plans and decisions to avoid misunderstandings and disputes.


Selling your house to your son to avoid care costs involves navigating complex legal, financial, and ethical considerations. While it may offer a way to protect your assets and provide for your family, it also carries significant risks, particularly regarding deprivation of assets rules. Careful planning, professional advice, and transparency are crucial to ensure that any actions taken are legally sound and in the best interest of all parties involved. By understanding the potential pitfalls and alternatives, you can make informed decisions that protect your financial security and ensure adequate care in your later years.

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