People talk about buying their first home as being a life-changing event, which it is. It is rare however for people to talk so excitedly about moving into retirement living.

Sooner or later most of us are likely going to have to deal with this confronting issue, either because we are helping our parents or other family members or friends transition from their home to a retirement community, or because we are considering making the move ourselves. It is therefore important to know your options and to understand the legal and financial implications that this type of move may attract.

A world of options

In the past, the very notion of a retirement home was enough to send a shiver down many people’s spines. Visions of 5 pm dinners and never-ending games of bingo did little to encourage mature persons to consider the move to a retirement community as desirable.

The good news is however that aged care has changed considerably in the last decade, resulting in a wider choice of accommodation options than ever before.

Choices range from luxurious apartment complexes for the “Over 55” community through to multi-functional retirement communities that offer a variety of accommodation and services onsite, such as independent living right through to around the clock nursing care, more like the traditional nursing home scenario.

Things to think about

The key to any successful life change usually starts with knowing your options and understanding the legal and financial obligations that coincide with each option. It is important that you get out and start looking at what options are available to you in the area where you or the person you are assisting would like to live. Once you have an idea of the options available to you in your area and the price range you are looking for, you will be able to start considering the legal and financial issues that go hand in hand with the more emotional part of the process.

Remember not all retirement communities are created equal

“Is this the right retirement community for me?”

This should be the first question you ask yourself. If you are helping someone else it might not be right for you personally but is it what that person is looking for?

This may sound obvious, but it is important to ensure you are not dazzled by a new fancy fit out if on closer inspection the retirement community does not offer the range of services that you want or need, or if it is so far from your family and friends that visitors will be few and far between, resulting in social isolation over time.

Every suburb and neighbourhood has its own quirks, and likewise, every retirement community differs; this is definitely not a case of “one size fits all”.

The Wish List

When you are ready to start looking into potential retirement communities, we recommend you start by making a “wish list” of what you are looking for, and what is important to you.

The top of the list should list your “must haves” or “not negotiables”, with the bottom of the list containing your “would be nice but not essential” things.

Things for consideration may include:

  • being close to public transport;
  • the range of on-site activities;
  • the level of nursing assistance available if needed;
  • a one-stop shop with different care levels all catered for in the one complex; or
  • proximity to current neighbourhood and family and friends.

Each person will have different priorities, so you must consider what is right for you.

The more you focus on what is most important for you, the easier it will be to eliminate options that are not quite “you”. It will also be easier to avoid getting sidetracked by things that really don’t matter to you quite as much.

Some important things to think about

Moving into a retirement community is a significant life change which brings with it emotional, financial and legal issues.

A few things to consider before signing any paperwork and making a commitment of this kind include:

  • Do I need to sell my home first before I can afford to move?
  • If I buy into a retirement community what exactly am I buying?
  • Is the property strata or community titled or does some other form of ownership apply?
  • Does the property I am buying form part of my estate after I die or does ownership revert to some other entity (such as the company that operates the retirement community)?
  • What exactly am I signing up for (what are my rights and responsibilities under the contract)?
  • Are there ongoing fees and charges in addition to the purchase price that I will be liable to pay over time?
  • What other costs need to be factored in when I move? Make sure you include your moving costs and any storage costs if you are unable to take all your possessions with you but you are not ready to part with the things you cannot fit into your new home yet.
  • Do I have to pay the whole price upfront or can I pay a portion of the cost and pay the balance later in instalments? Are there payment options available to me, such as pension sacrifice?
  • Will the move into a retirement community affect any pension or rent assistance I currently receive?
  • Is the facility able to provide a higher level of care to me later on in life if my needs change or would I need to relocate to a different facility if my care needs to be increased?
  • What ongoing costs are associated with any care provided to me?

Ask for help

Moving into a retirement community can prove to be a challenging one for both the person involved and anyone assisting them. It is therefore important to understand exactly what is involved legally and financially before entering into any contracts.

If you or someone you know wants more information or needs help or advice, please contact us on (08) 9335 9880 or complete the form below to request an Introductory Consultation.

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