Are you ready for the cost of care?

This communication is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute, and should not be construed as, investment advice, investment recommendations or investment research. You should seek advice from a professional adviser before embarking on any financial planning activity. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the information contained in this communication is correct, they are subject to change and we are not responsible for any errors or omissions.

According to the NHS, around one-quarter of British adults aged over 65 need help with daily tasks – whether from paid professionals or unpaid volunteers (e.g. family members). In England alone, 10m people across all age groups are affected by social care at a given time, with £22bn spent by local authorities between 2021 and 2022 on adult care alone.

Planning for care can be tricky enough for a UK resident. Yet for a British expat living in Spain or elsewhere abroad, it can be even more complex. Below, our financial advisers offer some ideas about how British people can prepare for the possible future cost of care.

If you want to discuss your financial plan with us, please get in touch to arrange a no-obligation financial consultation, at our expense:

+34 966 460 407

How is social care paid for in the UK?

Social care is distinct from healthcare. The latter primarily addresses medical needs and tends to fall under the purview of the NHS for those living in the UK. Social care, however, is not always free at the point of use like the public health system.

Social care aims to improve the quality of life for those who lack independence (e.g. due to a disability or old age), and the cost for this can come out of your own pocket. In 2023-24, it can cost as much as £1,600 per week – depending on the care you need.

It gets even more complicated due to the many types of care available in the UK. Some examples include residential care, end-of-life care and respite care. In general, care will be cheaper if you need less professional help (e.g. a few times a week) and within your home, rather than living in a dedicated care property. Where you live in the UK also impacts the cost.

What about in Spain?

The care landscape in Spain is perhaps more complicated than in the UK because it falls under the remit of autonomous communities around the country (except in the cities of Ceuta and Melilla). There are two main types of centres: those for the elderly (e.g. care homes) and those for people with disabilities.

To access the former, you must be at least 60 years old and you must be a pensioner under the Spanish social security system. Typically, you must contribute towards the cost of the service via a means test of your income. Subsidies may be available to help pay for someone’s elderly care for temporary stays.

Preparing your financial plan

At the outset, let us acknowledge that nobody knows the future. Care might be provided and funded in a very different way decades from now. Certain people may never need care, being blessed with good health and family support networks.

However, a good principle in life is to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. If you do eventually need 24/7 specialist care over a long time, for instance, how might you pay for it? What can you do now to prevent such a scenario from undermining your other financial goals too much – such as leaving a meaningful inheritance to your loved ones?

For British expats in Spain, a careful exploration of the care options in both countries should be considered with a specialist financial adviser. If you ever needed care and wanted to continue living in Spain, would this be possible given your circumstances? If not, you may need to ensure that your financial plan is flexible to allow you to return to the UK to receive care there.

Bear in mind that, to qualify for social care in a particular area of the UK, you must prove that you are an “ordinarily resident” in that area. This is difficult to do immediately after repatriating. Therefore, you may need to arrange private care temporarily until you have safely established your residency status in the eyes of local authorities.

This brings us to costs. Private care in the UK can cost tens of thousands of pounds per year. Locally-funded care, by contrast, can be free to the individual if he/she has less than £23,250 in savings. Please note that you cannot deprive yourself of assets to get under this threshold. It is against the law and authorities are likely to spot it when testing your eligibility for local care funding.

A social care “cap” came into force this month (October 2023) which, in theory, should stop an individual from ever paying more than £86,000 on social care fees. However, this does not cover everything you may need to pay for when getting care – e.g. food, heating and cleaning. So, it is possible that an individual ends up paying more than £86,000.

Speak with us if you are a British expat in Spain looking to explore your care plan. We can help you examine the options available to you – e.g. paying using pension savings or buying a care annuity – using the best available information.


If you are interested in discussing your own financial plan or inheritance tax strategy with us, please get in touch to arrange a no-commitment financial consultation at our expense:

+34 966 460 407


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