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Older Americans facing foreclosure at growing rate

Commentators say that homeowners over the age of 50 are facing foreclosure at a higher rate than any other age group. The commentators believe that one of the reasons that people over 50 are running up against foreclosure is that many women outlive their spouses. A portion of women who are over the age of 50 were never added to mortgage documents, which commentators say is creating a problem for people that can lead to foreclosure.

There are no exact measures of how many widows have been forced into foreclosure in the Cincinnati area, nor anywhere in the country. However, the AARP says that between 2007 and 2011, 1.5 million homeowners age 50 or more fell into foreclosure.

As our population ages with baby boomers reaching or in retirement, advocates in the area of elder care say that the problem of foreclosure among seniors is spreading at a growing rate. The issue has been noted in Ohio, which was hit hard overall by foreclosures.

A main issue for widows who were never included in the mortgage documents is that many banks will not allow the change to add the woman to the mortgage papers. That causes an issue if the homeowner wishes to seek a mortgage modification. Banks are often unwilling to make the change to the documents and allow a mortgage modification unless the mortgage payments are current. Often after the death of a spouse, anyone can face financial distress and fall behind on the house payments. In many cases, a prolonged battle with an illness led to financial distress, and the loss of the spouse made the financial difficulties even more dire for a senior.

Some banks have shown a willingness to find a way to make a medication. The new federal consumer protection agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is being urged to devise guidelines to help surviving relatives obtain loan modifications.

Still, commentators and advocates hope more banks will begin to see the issue as our population ages. The tremendous emotional difficulties of losing a spouse alone should not be complicated further by legal hassles to maintain the home at a time of financial and emotional distress.

Source: The New York Times, "Mortgage Catch Pushes Widows Into Foreclosure," Jessica Silver-Greenberg, Dec. 1, 2012

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