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What happens to carer living in the family home when a Fair Deal patient dies?

Q&A: Loan repayment can be deferred but that provision cannot be used to override the intention of your parent’s will

Could you help me with a query regarding Fair Deal and the carer’s rights in the family home when the parent they were minding needs full-time care? Is there some kind of deferral in paying the loan back as this is where the carer resides?

I’m very confused as the house in the will is to be split between all siblings when my mam passes but a nursing home fee or a Fair Deal loan was never discussed and unfortunately, that’s where we are at right now.

Ms M.R.

No one plans for nursing home care. That’s one of the most difficult things about it. Almost everyone expects to die suddenly and at home or, if not suddenly, at least at home or in hospital care. But the reality is that thousands of our loved ones will spend their final days requiring the sort of 24/7 care that you can only really get in a nursing home environment.


And that care is not cheap. The cost ranges from about €900 a week outside Dublin to as much as €1,300 a week or even more in the city. With people spending an average of three years in nursing home care, those bills can mount and quickly run through any liquid savings a person may have. That’s why Fair Deal is in place.

It sets down that the person going into nursing home care pays 80 per cent of their income and 7.5 per cent of the value of their assets towards their care each year, regardless of its cost, with the State subsidising the rest. When it comes to the family home, that 7.5 per cent is levied only for a maximum of three years and it can be paid from savings or through a nursing home loan under Fair Deal.

If the patient is one-half of a couple, the figures above are cut in half.

They’re the basic ground rules but you seem to have two distinct but related issues troubling you in the context of any Fair Deal loan. First, what happens to you as your parent’s live-in carer when they die and the loan falls due? And, second, what happens to the will that dictates the property should be split between all siblings on the death of the parent?

This second issue is more straightforward. The siblings can certainly get their stake of the property, and any other assets in your parent’s estate, when they die but not until any outstanding debts have been paid.

This is true regardless of nursing homes and Fair Deal loans. The executor or administrator appointed to manage your parent’s estate after their death is responsible for gathering details of any assets and debts in place at the time of death and making sure such debts are honoured as part of the probate process. What is left at the end of that is what can be divided among those inheriting.

If, as is often the case, the house is the sole or main asset, it might well be that it has to be sold to meet such debts with the outstanding balance then divided.

But what about you? You live there.

Normally, if there were no Fair Deal loan and the house was to be divided among a larger group, you would have to move out, the house sold and each of you would get your share which you then could use to fund new accommodation. Alternatively, you could buy out your siblings though this could have tax implications.

Fair Deal does not change the will and it is likely you will have to move when your parent dies. If your parent had wanted to make provision for you as the carer, they could have left you the property and, as long as you had lived there for three years before they died and had no other property, there would have been no inheritance tax bill due at all. This is known as the dwelling home exemption but it appears they have not chosen this path in this case.

The only difference your position as carer makes when your parent dies is the timing of when the loan falls due. Normally, it must be repaid within a year or it starts to attract interest. However, where a carer remains in the property and has no other home, the loan can be deferred. This applies only in cases where you were officially recognised as the carer — in receipt of the State carer’s allowance — and have lived in the property for the final three years of the owner’s life, or for longer. If your arrangement was a more informal one, you will not get any deferral.

Where a deferral is allowed, it continues until you leave the property but once you do leave the property — either because it has been sold or you yourself die — it falls due. Essentially, the HSE has taken a charge on the house and you would not be able to sell it without agreement for discharging that charge as part of the deal.

And no, you cannot use this deferral provision to frustrate the provisions of the will.

In this case, assuming you have the Carer’s Allowance, you could defer repayment of the nursing home loans — a maximum of 22.5 per cent of the value of the family home — until it is sold to allow for its disposal under the will. At that point the loan becomes due. The siblings will then share the balance — at least 87.5 per cent of the property’s value — and you will be faced with the daunting task of finding a new home.

  • Please send your queries to Dominic Coyle, Q&A, The Irish Times, 24-28 Tara Street Dublin 2, or by email to This column is a reader service and is not intended to replace professional advice