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Trouble paying mortgage? Beware of phone scam

August 7th, 2008 1:14 PM by Ron Mastrodonato

Trouble paying mortgage? Beware of phone scam
Don't fall for program that promises better interest rate, payment

August 07, 2008

By Ilyce Glink
Inman News

Q: My husband and I are retired and due to a number of problems we have gotten into an insurmountable amount of debt. We are just about maxed out on all our credit cards and are borrowing from one of them to pay another one. I don't know what is going to happen to us if we can't get some relief.

Recently we have been receiving several telephone calls each week saying that there is a program that the federal government is supporting that can help people in debt to recover by lowering mortgage interest rates and cutting their payments in half. The government gets a fee for doing this.

We need this or something like it desperately, but before we talk to one of their analysts I need to know how to check if these calls are legitimate. We do not want to give all our credit and personal information to someone who is running a scam.

If you could give us some kind of an answer as soon as you can, we would be so grateful.

A: I'm sorry for your financial troubles, but this sounds like a total scam. It sounds to me like you need some time with the folks at Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Greater Atlanta. They will be able to tell you if your debt is insurmountable or just enormous (but can be paid off). They are also certified housing counselors, so they can help you figure out what programs might be able to offer some relief.

You might also get help by finding a certified housing counselor through the Department of Housing and Urban Development Web site, or by calling 888-995-HOPE. Please call them and get the help you need.

One final thought: If you are so desperately in debt, it's possible that you'll never be able to pay your way out of it. In that case, bankruptcy may be a viable option. Please see a certified bankruptcy counselor (or the folks at CCCS may be able to guide you in that direction) for more details.

Q: have a desperate question. I have been married for 25 years and have three children. My name is not on the deed to our $600,000 home. If I divorce my husband, am I entitled to half of the assets even though the house isn't in my name?

We live in Massachusetts. Thank you so much -- I am sick over this and don't have money for a lawyer.

A: You may be entitled to half the value of the house, but it will depend on the circumstances.

First, I'm curious to know why your name isn't on the deed after all this time. But even if your name isn't on the deed, if the house is a marital asset (bought after you were married) and particularly if you have contributed sweat equity, if not money, to the purchase and maintenance of the property, then you may have a good case to make for equal ownership whether or not you are listed on the property.

If your husband bought the house before you were married, it might not be deemed to be a marital asset. Then, you'd have more trouble making a case for yourself as a co-owner.

More importantly, if your marriage is in this sort of jeopardy, then you had better find a way to scrape together a few hundred dollars so that you can spend an hour or two with a good divorce attorney who can walk you through some of the landmines you'll surely face if you do separate and help you figure out the answers to some of these questions.

Q: Four years ago, my stepmother signed a quitclaim deed to her and my father's home. The quitclaim was filed with courts. My father recently passed away. Since they were still married when he passed, does she still have claim to the home or would it fall to me and my two sisters?

A: Simply signing and recording a quitclaim deed doesn't tell the whole story.

To whom did she quitclaim the property? Did she quitclaim her entire interest in the home to your dad? If so, then his will would dictate what would happen to the property.

If the will dictates that she is entitled to all of his assets, then she'd inherit the property from him. If his will says that all of his assets go to you and your sisters, then she may not have any ownership interest in the property. Then you'd have to figure out how to either allow her to live in the property, perhaps renting it from you, or kick her out and sell it.

If your father's will states that his assets are to be divided between his known children and stepchildren, and your stepmother has kids, then you'll have to contend with some additional heirs.

The place to start is with the paperwork. Please find a copy of the document. Then, visit an estate attorney who can help you go through your father's will (assuming he has one) and the distribution of assets.

Posted in:General
Posted by Ron Mastrodonato on August 7th, 2008 1:14 PM

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