My husband died and my mortgage went up $200. What can I do?

By Karin Price Mueller | NJMoneyHelp.com for NJ.com

Q. My husband passed away two years ago. Our house was in his name only and the mortgage interest rate is 7.375%. There is only a $40,000 balance on the mortgage but the payments just went up $200 a month because of taxes and an escrow shortage. I was considering a refinance prior to the tax increase, but I’m wondering if $40,000 is worth an entire new mortgage. I need to get the monthly payment reduced and no one out there seems interested in giving such a small mortgage. Are there alternatives?



— Widow


A. We’re sorry to hear about your husband.


The first question is who is the owner of record of the home now?


If your late husband’s will says the house goes to you, then you now own it, said Bernie Kiely, a certified financial planner and certified public accountant with Kiely Capital Management in Morristown.


The next question is whose name is on the mortgage note.


“Normally, if only the husband’s name is on the deed, then only his is on the note,” Kiely said. “If you reached out to the bank that holds the mortgage and informed them that your husband passed, they would want you to retitle the deed from his name to yours.”


The bank would also want to refinance the loan, he said.


“The bank has to have a valid mortgage note to protect themselves,” he said. “The new mortgage would probably carry a much lower interest rate than 7.375%. If you want a lower monthly payment, you could refinance to a longer mortgage duration like 15 to 20 years.”


Kiely said you should note that retitling the deed and the mortgage note will require some legal fees on your part. You would have to sit down with a financial advisor or CPA to see if paying the legal fees are worth it and how long should the mortgage life be, he said.


Email your questions to Ask@NJMoneyHelp.com.


Karin Price Mueller writes the Bamboozled column for NJ Advance Media and is the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com. Follow NJMoneyHelp on Twitter @NJMoneyHelp. Find NJMoneyHelp on Facebook. Sign up for NJMoneyHelp.com’s weekly e-newsletter.



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