A marriage of many decades where a husband outlives his wife is a modern phenomenon which is set to increase.
Equally, it is also the case that in marriages which have sustained many years, instances of healthy husbands caring for a wife who has developed a life limiting condition such as dementia, is statistically more likely.
However it still remains much rarer for the husband to be left in the family home, either because of the death or illness of his wife.
In the early stages of dementia spouses or partners often care for a long term companion in their own home until residential care becomes necessary.
For many this is the point when, in addition to the emotional turmoil, the funding of care becomes a major issue particularly in instances where the couple have assets and/or property. The difficulty is that an individual with dementia can live for many years and whilst the healthy spouse remains fit, their lifestyle is itself diminishing and they may in desperation ask “how long it can continue?”
On this subject Senior Solicitor Ian MacDonald commented “I returned home recently and read *The Times. On page 4, there were three headlines in juxtaposition:-
“Ageing Women will require 5 years more care than men”
“Strokes may double risk of dementia”
“It’s never too late for your diet to give a longer life”.
The first of these reported a study by academics at the University and London School of Economics and published by The Lancet Public Health. It was quoted as reporting:-
“Women now in their 50s will spend an average of 12⅟2 years at the end of their lives depending on carers to support their daily needs, researchers predict”.
The other two articles of course are concerned with Lifestyle, and it is not for us to advise on that!
However, in providing advice on Client asset management, it is important that we try to envisage how our more senior clients should plan for their future needs. For me asset liquidity is important. And indeed to encourage some of our clients not to be so generous with passing assets on to future generations, whether by gift or trusts, when they need to look after themselves potentially for many years. Indeed, the article I have quoted above also reports:-
“Overall, more than a million older people will need round-the-care in two decades’ time, up by a third. That would include 446,000 aged 85 and above, nearly double the number now.”
Clients talk about downsizing, but that is no longer a perfect solution, with the considerable Stamp Duty Liability cost as well as the agent’s fees, removal and furnishing costs.
Equity release can be a help, but again without proper legal devices (LPAs etc.) and advice from qualified financial planners, that can be very difficult when one of the spouses is already stricken with a serous capacity affecting condition.
And to finish, I wondered when I read the articles whether, when the husband is so often in control of the family’s financial management, we consult the wife sufficiently about her fears and wishes. When there is often a disparity between the ages of the usually elder husband and younger wife, we need to have a time telescope to speculate on the arrangements that may need to be made to provide appropriate support.
I believe that our Private Client Department, led by Nicola Browett, is well qualified and experienced to provide the advice that our clients need.
Senior Solicitor and Managing Director
*The Times edition dated 31.8.2018.