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Many homeowners are still struggling with mortgage payments that have ballooned as their take-home pay has dropped. Property values have (hopefully) hit the floor.
Over 23% of all mortgaged homes in the U.S. were underwater in the last quarter of 2010. In California, that number is almost 50%. If you are in this boat, but your income can still cover the payments, you can probably wait it out. Or you can try for a mortgage modification program to bring the mortgage payments more in line with your ability to pay. But if that doesn’t work, and you can’t afford the payments, it may be time to face the music and let the property go.
How you decide to let it go is the critical issue. Foreclosure will happen sooner or later if you fall behind on your mortgage payments, or simply stop paying them at all. The lender will take court action to take the house from you, and to sell it at auction. In California, the lender of your first mortgage on your primary residence won’t hold you liable for the difference if the auction price was less than the amount you still owed. But if you also had a home equity line of credit (HELOC), or a second mortgage, it is possible that the lender can come after you for the amount you still owe on that. Losing a home is bad enough. Still owing on it is terrible.
A short sale is often a better way to get out of an underwater mortgage situation. About 20 of all California home sales last year involved short sales. Through the federal HAFA program, your lender may agree to allow you to sell the property for less than the mortgage owed, and you will not owe the difference, nor will you be taxed by the IRS on the amount forgiven by the lender. This option takes time – the lender may take weeks or months to agree to the sale after you have accepted a buyer’s offer.
But in many cases, it is less destructive of your credit rating and more satisfactory all around.
Hawaii Same-Sex Civil Unions Finally Approved
Hawaii lawmakers and the Governor gave final approval to civil unions, which will begin Jan. 1, 2012. The law gives essentially the same rights and responsibilities of marriage to those entering civil unions, without actually authorizing marriage itself.
Five states and the District of Columbia now permit same-sex marriage, with additional states authorizing various other types of same-sex unions or domestic partnerships. The Hawaii civil union certificate will be valid in most of those states. Gay couples do not have to be residents of Hawaii to become partners in a civil union there.
Long-Term Medical Care For Out Aging Population
Baby-boomers are just beginning to recognize the issues that will face them as their generation reaches the aging years. Many are already savvy about financial affairs and estate planning, and have their Wills and trusts in place. But they often postpone or avoid altogether the planning that’s needed for their own long-term physical care and support.
It is a real cause for concern. There are so few facilities for the care of those with aging and debilitating medical conditions. There are very few agencies, public or private, that offer comprehensive services for elders to keep them in their homes; patient-based medical and physical care in board-and-care homes; or financial support for care in long-term nursing care facilities.
Medicare and Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California) offer little or no financial assistance for care in the patient’s home, or in an assisted living or board-and-care facility. Medicare does not pay for any long-term care in a nursing home, and, although Medicaid pays for some care, it is only for those in the lowest income bracket, and only in certain facilities.
Long-term care insurance is an option for many of us who have the income to pay premiums, keep up with inflation, and keep the policies in force over the years until needed. But not everyone can afford it, and even the best insurance plans do not cover many of the care situations we are likely to face.
The U.S. Administration on Aging finances the Eldercare Locator (800.677.1116), a service to help people find professional services and advice on care for the aging. If you, your parents or other older loved ones need information, this is a good source.
No matter your age or generation, chances are you will need some form of long-term care as you grow older. We all have a stake in putting together programs at the community, state and federal level that will help support our care when we need it.
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