Firstly, There is no tax to pay on the money released from your home, provided it is your main residential property.
Releasing capital from your home that takes your savings over £10,000 can affect your means tested benefits if your income is less than the minimum the state says you need to live on. Therefore you should ensure that the balance of any equity release money left over after spending cash on immediate needs does not take you over the ten thousand pound threshold. At least not for a long period, as money entering and leaving your account very quickly is unlikely to alter the situation.
Non means tested benefits such as disability benefit and attendance allowance are totally unaffected by the extra money created from your equity release, but invalidity grants for home adaptations could be influenced, even if your savings are less than ten thousand pounds. In this context if you are seeking such grants, you should first establish your position with the local authority before entering into an equity release scheme and definitely before instructing any work to commence.
Pension Credit is a means tested benefit that could be reduced or even extinguished by equity release money arriving into your account. Pension credit payments are added to your income if you are over aged 60. This is to top up low level earnings or the state pension so that you have the minimum weekly income that the state says you need to live on. After 5th April 2010 this is £132.60 for a single person and £202.40 for a couple. If your savings exceed £10,000, every £500 over this amount can reduce your weekly pension credit by one pound.
If your circumstances change during the five year period from when you were assessed for pension credit you do not need to notify the Department of Works and Pensions. People over aged 75 at the time their pension credit decision was made do not have a time limit.
National Health Service benefits are available for persons that are claiming Pension Credit. These include free prescriptions, dental treatment, free eyesight tests, vouchers for spectacles and even reasonable transport costs for health treatment.
Council Tax benefits are available for people on low incomes that may be claiming pension credit. The amount of council tax benefit reduces proportionately as the level of savings increases from £10,000 to £16,000.
The best way to ensure that your means tested benefits are not affected by equity release is to consult an independent equity release adviser at the equity release schemes website who can provide you with an indication of the level of any benefits that may be reduced. Some advisers have access to computer software that can assess the effects of equity release schemes on state benefits.
As a general rule, make sure that the amount of equity you have released does not take your savings over the £10,000 threshold after you have spent money on essential items.