Monday, December 3, 2012

Widows Fighting For Their Homes

Protect Your Property
Every woman needs to read this New York Times story (see link below).
Whether you are 18 or 81-years-old, single, married or widowed, every woman needs to know the financial facts about owning her own home.  Don't think that someone is going to go out of their way to explain it to you.  Find out about home ownership for yourself in order to protect yourself and the biggest investment of your life -- your home.
When my husband died, both of our names were on the mortgage.  I was lucky but I could easily have been one of these women in the New York Times story.  My husband had been ill and in and out of hospitals for about two and a half years before he died.  I remember a particularly poignant memory when my husband ended up in the emergency room and the doctors thought he was going to die that day.  One of the doctors asked me in a tone I will never forget if I had power of attorney.  I didn't.  I had never thought about it.

But I quickly got a lawyer to give it to me.
It was from that day forward that I saw I needed to be proactive about our property and finances.  I was working full-time and made sure from that time forward that I could pay the mortgage.  I felt very alone in that time and particularly vulnerable because I felt the financial weight as well as the responsibility for my husband and young son.

I knew I could pay the mortgage but that also was a lot of stress to handle.  Sadly, I know a few women who had to sell their houses after their husbands' deaths and it is not a pretty process.
It's already hard enough when you have to deal with the emotional minefield of grieving but to then find yourself in the throes of fighting to keep a roof over your head is just incomprehensible.  I remember the surreal and out-of-body feeling of planning my husband's funeral, trying to take care of our child and having no enthusiasm or energy to do any of it.  I can't imagine to then be expected to put all that turmoil aside and then focus on proving that the house I have been living in is legally mine.
I'm not sure why two people would buy a house and list only one person's name on the morgage but apparently this happens all the time and now we are finding out that the so-called gap in paperwork is creating a crisis for widowed women who are in their fifties and older.
If you have a mortgage, please make sure you are listed on it with your husband or partner.  Unfortunately, mortgage companies take a "business is business" attitude and don't let feelings of compassion or sympathy enter into their decisions about home foreclosures.
Here is the compelling New York Times story:

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