Widows Mortgage Rights

By Beverly Bird
Homestead rights, spouses, the property, the mortgage

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Not all spouses own their home together. If the owner dies, this can present quite a problem for the surviving spouse. Most states have taken steps to make sure that she’s not put out on the street, however, and the federal government has implemented measures to prevent this as well.

Homestead Rights

Many states offer homestead rights, but they address the property, not the mortgage. For example, if you live in Texas, the law trumps the terms of your husband’s will, at least during your lifetime, if he left the property to another beneficiary. The beneficiary’s ownership interest does not supersede your right to possession. You can continue living there indefinitely, but if your name doesn’t appear on the deed and your husband left the property to someone else, you don’t actually own it.

Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Act

The mortgage against the property is a separate issue. If you continue making payments, the lender can’t foreclose by calling the mortgage due just because the owner has died and someone else now owns the property. The federal Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Act prevents this from happening provided the loan is current and the property has transferred to a relative or a joint tenant on the deed. Some lenders may insist that you refinance the mortgage into your name. This is just a bullying tactic. If you find yourself in this position, speak with a lawyer. The important thing is that if you keep the loan current, the lender cannot foreclose.

About the Author

Beverly Bird has been writing professionally for over 30 years. She specializes in personal finance, divorce and family law, bankruptcy, and estate law, and she writes as the tax expert for The Balance. She is the author of more than 30 novels.

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