Widow and son back down in court case

A 91-YEAR-old widow and her son who faced legal action amid claims she gave him her £90,000 house to avoid nursing home fees will not fight the case through court, it has emerged.

By David Lennard

A 91-YEAR-old widow and her son who faced legal action amid claims she gave him her £90,000 house to avoid nursing home fees will not fight the case through court, it has emerged.

Suffolk County Council had issued a writ against pensioner Emily Youngman and her son John in what it called a "distressing" case.

But yesterday Mr Youngman, of The Street, Somerleyton, confirmed they had agreed to settle out of court. The settlement involves charges for his mother's care at Lound Hall nursing home, near Lowestoft.


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However, he said he was "disappointed" at the outcome, which had been taken after legal advice, as he still felt he was "in the right".

Pensioners' representatives had been hoping the High Court case would set a precedent in long-running disputes about elderly people being forced to sell their homes to pay for care fees. However, with both sides agreeing an out of court settlement, the controversy looks set to continue.

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Suffolk County Council claimed £7,271 plus interest from either 91-year-old Emily Youngman or Mr Youngman to cover the nursing home care.

Mr Youngman said: "This has been going on for four years now and it has been a very stressful time for all the family.

"The county council had taken out two separate writs, one against my mother and the other against me.

"If I had lost a three or four day High Court case and been liable for costs for both sides, the total bill would have been horrendous."

Although he felt he was "in the right" as the property in question had been his family home where he and his mother had lived since he was 15 years old, Mr Youngman said he had taken legal advice and settled out of court.

Mrs Youngman bought the house in Market Lane, Blundeston, around 50 years ago and lived there with her late husband Arthur. Around five years ago, she was admitted to hospital and in 1999 was moved to Lound Hall nursing home.

In 1997, she had handed over responsibility for the house to her son in a declaration of trust. Mr Youngman said she wanted it as an inheritance for his daughters.

However, Suffolk County Council claimed it was done to avoid paying care home charges.

Although the case was seen as a test of the ruling that anyone with assets of £19,000 or more must pay the full costs of residential or nursing care themselves, the county council has always denied this.

"This particular case is so unusual that any judgement was unlikely to have an effect on other cases," said a county council spokesman.

The final terms of the settlement are still being negotiated but it is likely the family will face a sizeable bill for Mrs Youngman's care.

Typically, full-time nursing care costs £393 a week at a private nursing home, or £280 a week at a residential home, according to the latest figures from healthcare research group Laing and Buisson.

The county council said the case was unusual because of the way a trust was set up that meant the local authority had to take "complex legal action" to register a charge against it.

In a statement yesterday the county council confirmed that it had agreed to settle the Youngman case out of court.

"Charges for Mrs Youngman's care to date form the basis of the settlement.

"We are pleased the legal process came to an end amicably as we recognise how distressing this has been for the family," said the statement.

Legal experts said it was vital that anyone considering putting their property in to a trust should seek specialist professional advice as it is such a complex situation.

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