Fewer than half of people aged 45 or over reckon they’ll have a big enough pension pot to last them through retirement, according to an exclusive survey by ITV’s Tonight Series.

It’s perhaps why increasing numbers of us are taking out equity release to free up the cash locked in the value of their homes.

It’s reckoned £5 billion worth of value will be released this year alone.

But is it a good idea to take on a debt that will only be paid back when the householders die or move into care? Tonight Reporter Jonny Maitland spoke to Frances who’s dad Hugh O’Shaughnessy took out an equity release product, called a Shared Appreciation Mortgage, in 1997.

Their North London family home cost £12,000 in 1961 but it’s now worth £3 million. Problem is that nearly two million of that will go to the equity release provider rather than being passed on to Hugh’s children.

Frances explained: “The house has always been a family home, a big part of our family's life and history. And then, to suddenly think that the house belongs to the bank, or three quarters of it, actually was a big shock to us.”

In the case of Shared Appreciation Mortgage holders like Frances’s dad, court action may settle whether the product was fair.

But even conventional equity release mortgages can have some nasty surprises.

Expert Martyn James, of Resolver, said: “The interest that goes on to these policies, is compound. So, the longer you live, the more money will come from the value of your house.

You could be paying potentially, thousands upon thousands of pounds. And that can be a real shocker for your friends and family.”

Interest rates are very important with equity release because the products are designed to be paid back at the end of your life - which is often a lot of years later.

It’s likely that equity release providers will be kept busy in the coming years.

Always seek the advice of an independent financial adviser before you make any big financial decision.