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posted: 2/2/2013 5:30 AM

Readers help solve other writers' problems

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All of today's items are from readers in response to questions previously published in the column.

Joint mortgage problem

Q. In today's column there was an inquiry regarding a widow's joint mortgage with a deceased husband. You told her to just keep on paying it, the bank wouldn't call it in. But there is another factor she may want to consider.

My husband has been deceased for five years, and I have continued to make payments on our jointly-held mortgage. The IRS sent me a letter recently stating there was a problem with my income tax return because while I had submitted it (in my name, of course), my husband's Social Security number was on the jointly-held mortgage. My interest deduction had been denied, because the two Social Security numbers were different. This is the first time in five years the IRS seems to have noticed the problem. My tax preparer and I have sent documentation to the IRS that should resolve the issue, but he suggested I get the records straightened out.

After a great deal of trouble with the mortgage company, I was finally given the right information about the necessary documentation to change their records: Sent a letter stating the death of my husband, sent a copy of the death certificate, asked that his name be taken off the mortgage and asked to have the Social Security number changed.

After a few weeks I received a letter from the mortgage company stating my husband's name and Social Security number have been removed but informing me he is still responsible for the mortgage payment!

My husband still has not let me know if he will indeed cover the mortgage if I am not able to. Any advice on how to communicate with him?

A. Perhaps you're old enough to remember the Ouija Board. That might be your best bet.

Notarizing abroad

Q. The solution to the question about needing a wife to sign the deed while in a foreign country, without going to the embassy or consulate, may be to have her local notary use an Apostille. That is a document that certifies, as to the office of the local notary, who would acknowledge the document. Most countries that would be a part of The Hague Convention have approved the use of the Apostille. This should allow the wife to go to a local notary and have the deed document signed or have a local notary come to her.

As an attorney who occasionally needs to have documents executed in foreign countries, I have found that the use of the Apostille may be the easiest solution.

A. I can't seem to locate the original letter, from a man who couldn't sell jointly-owned property without the signature of a wife living abroad. She was too ill to travel to a consulate for notarization. Let's hope he's still reading this column and sees your excellent suggestion.

Pay it off sooner

Q. Recently you advised a person to get a 25-year loan vs. a 30-year loan because of the overall cost savings. My suggestion: get the 30-year loan but pay as if it were a 25-year loan. That gets the same cost savings, but if finances ever get tight, the borrower isn't locked into the higher 25-year loan payment. (Better yet, of course, pay as if it were a 15- or 20-year loan).

A. You make an interesting point. I can think of two drawbacks, though. First, sending in extra money to pay the loan off faster than scheduled takes some self-discipline. With a shorter loan term, on the other hand, the higher monthly payment is automatic.

And second, a shorter-term loan can sometimes be made at a lower interest rate. Banks don't like tying up their money at today's low rates for any longer than they have to, so borrowers may be offered bargain rates for shorter terms.

Mystery solved

Q. In your column today I saw my previous question about how the public records showed our mortgage being discharged, but we knew it hadn't been. Thought you would like to learn what we figured out. When my husband and I looked more thoroughly at the record, we realized the lien that was discharged wasn't from our bank. When we purchased our home, we received a government grant that we were obligated to pay back if we sold the home within a certain number of years. We did not sell, and it was that claim against the property that was removed. This would be good information for anyone else who receives a grant, as there is usually some sort of stipulation such as this.

A. Thanks for the follow-up. Mystery solved.

• Edith Lank will respond to questions sent to her at 240 Hemingway Drive, Rochester, N.Y. 14620 (include a stamped return envelope), or readers may email her through

2012, Creators Syndicate Inc.

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