Question: My parents own their house outright, but would like to know if it could be owned in four names – that is, those of my parents and their son and daughter (me) – I do understand that we would need to change the deeds and we would incur a cost for doing so.
They worry that they have worked all their lives and if they become ill and one of them has to go into a care home the other will be forced to sell up to pay for this.
Answer: To answer your first question, yes, your parents can make you and your brother joint owners of the property. You are also right in thinking that there would be a fee for doing this. More information is available from the Land Registry, which will need to be involved in the change in ownership.
Your parents’ worries about being forced into selling their house if one of them had to go into a care home are unfounded, however. It is true that a person’s savings and investments are taken into account by a local authority when assessing eligibility for help with the costs of care. But the value of the family home is excluded from this calculation if the home is still occupied by that person’s spouse or civil partner. So, for example, if your father needed to go into a care home, and your mother was still living at home, your parents’ house would not be included in the local authority’s financial assessment and your mother would not be forced to sell.
Once only one of your parents is living, the value of the home would be included in the local authority’s assessment and may need to be sold to help pay for care. So there may be an advantage in splitting the ownership of the property now to reduce the value of your parents’ share. But it is worth noting that a local authority could decide that such a transfer of ownership was a deliberate attempt to reduce the value of assets for means-testing and could overlook the fact that a share of the property had been transferred to you and your brother. This would leave you in the same position as you would have been had you done nothing.