Now it looks as if there's another reason to be wary: if you die, your spouse could end up out on the street.
Lenders sometimes encourage only the elder member of a couple to put his or her name on the mortgage because then the payout is greater. Mr. Bennett said he did not realize that his new mortgage had taken his name off the title of the home, which the couple had owned together since 1981.
Mrs. Bennett, who was a decade senior to her husband, died shortly after the new mortgage went into effect. The payments immediately stopped and the mortgage became due and payable.
The lender began foreclosure proceedings and scheduled a sale of the property last month.
The new mortgage, intended to secure this couple's future, instead helped destroy it. They paid $20,000 in fees but received only $1,800 in cash. Meanwhile, fees and interest continue to accumulate. The balance of the loan is now about $300,000, while the value of the property has fallen to about $200,000.
The AARP is suing, claiming that the problems stem from a 2008 rule change by HUD; were it not for this rule change, they say, the spouses would be able to stay in the homes until they, too, died.