Case Studies » Pensions » State Pension (Non-Contributory) - Case 5
The appellant and her brother, both of whom remained single, had lived in the family home all their lives. When her brother died, a claim was made against his estate on behalf of a child, born following a relationship he entered into late in life. The estate consisted of a pub and the overhead residence where he and the appellant had lived. The balance of the capital, after settlement of the child’s claim, was of the order of €100,000. This was assessed as means and the appellant failed to qualify for an Old Age Pension.
The appellant attended, accompanied by her solicitor and her nephew. The Social Welfare Inspector attended at the request of the Appeals Officer.
It was submitted that the public house and the dwelling house at issue in the case were effectively one premises, with the dwelling being over the pub. This had been the appellant's family business and she had always lived on the premises. The pub and the dwelling house had been sold in one lot following the death of the appellant’s brother. The property was bought by her nephews, who leased the pub to another party and allowed the appellant to live rent-free in the overhead accommodation. She was liable for all expenses in relation to the dwelling and paid all service charges. She had no role in the running of the pub and was not engaged in any form of employment.
Her solicitor argued that while the legislation did not provide specifically for disregarding capital in cases such as this, the arrangement might almost be described as sheltered accommodation, put in place by the appellant’s family as a means of providing care for her. He asserted that the lump sum at issue would be dissipated in living expenses over the years if the appellant did not qualify for a pension, and that it would not be available to her for nursing home care when the time came. He contended that it would have been impossible for the appellant to buy alternative accommodation with the sum involved.
The Social Welfare Inspector observed that the appellant would not have expected to have to rely on her lump sum to live on, and that she was likely to have depended very heavily on her pension for day to day living expenses.
The Appeals Officer put it to her solicitor that the appellant's situation, though unusual, might be compared with that of a person who re-mortgaged a dwelling and keep the proceeds in a bank account. The solicitor argued, however, that there was a major difference in that the appellant had no choice in the matter as her brother’s liabilities had to be met.
Consideration of the Appeals Officer:
The Appeals Officer considered this to be an unfortunate case and, in her experience, unique as to its circumstances. She noted that the appellant was not in nursing home care, that she had not purchased an alternative residence, and that she was not renting alternative accommodation. Even if her nephews were to charge her a nominal rent, she noted that the appellant would still not qualify for a capital disregard, as she had continued to live in the home she sold. Despite the fact that the circumstances requiring the sale of her home were thrust upon her, the Appeals Officer observed that the appellant was in the same situation as a person who realised capital by re-mortgaging, although such a scenario was unlikely in the case of someone of pension age. While she considered that the appellant had suffered because of the circumstances in which she found herself, the Appeals Officer concluded that existing legislation did not provide any means to alleviate her situation. Accordingly, she determined that the capital must be assessed in full.