The Residential Care Subsidy (“Subsidy”) is becoming increasingly topical as New Zealand’s 65+ population is projected to increase from 15% in 2016 to over 25% by 2068. The growth in this population will increase the number of Subsidy applications for financial assistance for long-term residential care in a rest home or hospital (“Care”). Despite the predicted growth in applications, many New Zealanders are not aware that their current asset planning has the potential to affect the outcome of a Subsidy application significantly. In light of this, advice surrounding asset planning in consideration of a Subsidy application is essential.
The Ministry of Social Development (“MSD”) determines Subsidy applications. When considering an application, they will conduct a financial means assessment to determine whether the applicant qualifies under the prescribed eligibility thresholds. This includes both an asset and an income assessment.
Before the applicant undertakes the income assessment, MSD will first assess whether they qualify under the asset assessment (“Assessment”). The asset thresholds for the Subsidy are as follows:
The Gifting Provisions
MSD implemented gifting thresholds to prevent the giving away of assets with the purpose of attempting to qualify under the asset thresholds for the Subsidy.
Gifting thresholds apply to gifting commonly, i.e. birthday gifts, and gifting undertaken to a Family Trust (“Trust”). Gifting to a Trust is when an individual (“Settlor(s)”) who owns assets such as houses, cash and shares, sells these assets into a Trust. In return, the Trust owes a debt back to the Settlor(s). The debts are then “forgiven” by the Settlor(s) through a process called gifting.
The MSD gifting thresholds are:
Gifting that falls under the prescribed gifting thresholds will not be considered in the Assessment. However, if an applicant has sold an asset into a Trust that exceeds the gifting threshold, MSD will consider the value of the asset that exceeds the gifting thresholds as a personal asset. For example, an applicant sells their house valued at $300,000.00 to their Trust in 2011 and gifts annually until 2016; they apply for the Subsidy in 2017. MSD will subtract the value of the prescribed gifting being $27,000.00 in 2011 and $6,000 annually until 2016. The remaining $243,000.00 will be considered a personal asset under the Assessment. The applicant would not qualify for the Subsidy in this instance.
Please see diagram below which offers a visual aid to the implementation of the MSD gifting thresholds:
If the same applicant had a partner who was not in Care, it may have been more beneficial for the applicant to hold the property as a personal asset. If the house was a personal asset, in this case, they could be considered under the eligibility threshold which excludes the value of the family home and vehicle if they chose. The applicant would qualify for the Subsidy in this instance.
Please note MSD will only consider gifting to a Trust that has been completed and will not take into account any entitled gifting that has not been completed.
Please note that this article only covers aspects of a Subsidy application. For more comprehensive advice, please seek legal counsel.