Has Home Foreclosure Become an Elder Law Issue?

The past decade has not been good for homeowners; especially young homeowners just starting out and struggling to get by, and older homeowners who may be struggling to make the mortgage on severely depleted retirement savings. Some news sources such as CBS News are now going so far as to report that this most recent foreclosure crisis is actually affecting a disproportionate number of elderly people.

“Local governments can seize and sell a home if the owner falls behind on property taxes and fees. The process helps governments make ends meet at a time when low property values and the weak economy are squeezing tax revenue. But tax debts as small as $400 can cause people to lose their homes because of arcane laws and misinformation among consumers… The rules for property tax sales can be confusing, especially to elderly people who can’t keep track of their finances.”

Many people believe that these “arcane laws” are unfair, and that changes should be made. In fact, the National Consumer Law Center recently released a report stating that “governments should make it easier for homeowners to retake their homes after tax lien sales. It said they should limit the interest and penalties investors can charge and increase court oversight. It also called on local governments to let people pay back taxes or fees to investors on an installment plan, and to increase notice to homeowners and make sure they understand their rights.”

Increasing notice and helping homeowners—young or old—understand their rights is certainly a step in the right direction, but it may not be enough to help everyone. Recently widowed and grieving spouses, and relatives suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia; these are just a few examples of individuals who may require extra care when it comes to protecting their finances. One of the first things to do is ensure that all their paperwork is in order—including a financial power of attorney in case of emergency. Our firm can help ensure that you or your elderly loved ones have everything they need to protect their home now, and in the years to come.

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