The Elder Law Forum

The Elder Law Forum By Michael Myers Olive Branches and the Reverse Mortgage

The autumn of life is a time to look back; to conduct a private assessment of personal achievements and failures; to separate the important from the unimportant, and to undergo some pre-death self-judging.

Late-life reflections can be, and often are, brutal. At the moment of death there is likely an instant awareness of our spiritual condition. St. Peter may well be redundant. We will probably regret our sins of omission more than our sins of commission.

An often-cited omission is our failure to procreate, or the failure to procreate sufficiently. Today's dual-income, dual-career couples are generally not attracted to the biblical wish that "Children [be] like olive branches round about the table."

Most modern tables are attended by one, two, or at most, three "olive branches" � often pampered and stressed by parental expectations.

Family planning, at age 70, looks much different than family planning at age 30. "I had the good fortune of having a wonderful husband who worked hard and allowed me to remain home and care for our children," said a USD Senior Legal Helpline caller, who at age 74 is basking in the warmth of a large, close family.

"We had 12 children; one was lost in childhood," she said. "None of the children want or need the family home. My husband is 78 and we are both in reasonably good health. My question is: What do you think about a reverse mortgage?"

Their house is "free and clear" with a market value of $165,000. Their income is limited to two social security checks. "Cash flow � particularly at property tax time � gets pretty snug," she said.

"A reverse mortgage would be perfect for your situation," I advised.

I suggested they take advantage of today's low interest rates, lock in a schedule of payments over their expected life spans, and enjoy life. "Take a vacation, upgrade your car, re-roof the house, travel, and pursue that hobby you never thought you could afford," I suggested.

Reverse mortgages and olive branches are often made for each other.

(Pro bono legal assistance is available to persons 55 and older at the USD Senior Legal Helpline, 1-800-747-1895; mmyers@usd.edu).

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