How important is it for me to get the mortgage into my name? I have just 18 months to go to pay it off, and I don't want to spend the money to hire a lawyer. (When last I checked in 1997, I found out it would cost me $500.) --BS, via email
Of course, in real life tackling a bank's bureaucracy can prove very time-consuming. You may find it takes several phone calls, and perhaps a couple of follow-up letters.
Here's a likely explanation for what has happened:
Every year, the bank files tax Form 1098 with the Internal Revenue Service, reporting the interest payment it received on your mortgage. On this form, when property is in joint names it's standard procedure to use only the Social Security number of the first listed owner.
In reality, of course, you are now making the interest payments. And every year, on your tax return -- which carries your Social Security number -- you're claiming a tax deduction for it.
It sounds as if the IRS has noticed this discrepancy and is trying to resolve it by asking the bank to verify that your husband's Social Security number on the loan is correct. And the bank, in turn, has asked you the same question.
Assuming that is what has happened, if you respond to the bank by verifying your late husband's Social Security number, eventually you'll get a letter from the IRS saying you're not entitled to the deduction.
(If that happens, don't be alarmed! You have nothing to worry about no matter how long it takes to straighten this out. You are entitled to this deduction. This is just a question of updating the information on a tax form.)
My advice is to tell the bank that your husband is dead and that from now on, the Form 1098 they file with the IRS must carry your name and Social Security number. That change should present no problem to the bank because based on what you say, your name and Social Security number are both already on the mortgage.
Please send your questions to [email protected]. I'm sorry I can't respond personally to every email. Questions are only addressed online.
(c) Lynn Brenner, All Rights Reserved