Widows Mortgage Rights
Mortgages can be legally tricky when a borrower dies. Not only do laws differ from state to state, there are often rules involving “homesteads” that grant certain privileges to widows and widowers.
Finding out about your rights as they relate to your property and mortgage is something best handled with an attorney, but there are certain considerations to be made prior to executing a deceased person’s will.
Rights to a property begin and end with the Deed of Trust, or the document that shows ownership on the property. Most home owners have a copy of the Deed of Trust in their personal documents.
But if you need to find a copy, visit the Registry of Deeds in the particular township or city where the home or property is located. All recorded real estate documents for a particular area are contained in such registries. The names of the property owners are listed on this document.
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If a widow is not listed on the Deed of Trust as a vested owner, untangling the web of property rights and mortgage responsibility becomes more difficult. In some states, like Massachusetts and Florida, homestead exemptions exist.
This law was created to protect a “homestead,” or the residence in which a widow or widower lives, from being forcibly sold out from under them.
The legal will of the deceased party should help to establish a widow’s rights concerning the mortgage. Generally, a mortgage company will look to collect a mortgage debt from the next of kin (like a widow) unless the debt is covered by life insurance or mortgage life insurance.
Often when this is the case, the widow or widower must sell the property to cover the debt–especially if the deceased was the primary breadwinner.
Widows and widowers should not make any arrangements with lenders after the death of a spouse until the will has been reviewed carefully. In most cases, the deceased party will list his or her spouse as the executor and main beneficiary.
An attorney will help sort through the legal aspects of the document and make recommendations to the widow or widower as it relates to an unpaid mortgage.
In some cases, a widow or widower will have virtually no rights concerning a property and mortgage. In the worst cases, a widow or widower can be evicted from their property by a lender.
It’s important to have conversations with one’s spouse regarding the mortgage and property and to have wills drawn up and updated when necessary to avoid legal entanglements later in life.
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