One more risk is fraud. Foreclosure rescue scams, inappropriate reverse mortgages and bogus home improvement refinancings generally grab the headlines, but any type of loan can expose an elderly person to financial abuse.
A recent MetLife Mature Market Institute study of media reports about elder financial abuse found that petty cons and purse snatchings were common crimes against elderly people. But there were also plenty of instances in which caregivers, handymen, friends, supposed sweethearts, adult children, lawyers and other trusted helpers "seized upon opportunities to forge checks, steal credit cards, pilfer bank accounts, transfer assets and generally decimate elders' financial safety nets."
Adults might wonder whether their elderly parents have a mortgage, especially one secured by a childhood home or house that's perceived as family property. But Given says older people typically don't share such information about their economic situation with their family.
"It's a generational thing," he says.
More often, sons and daughters discover these late-in-life mortgages only after parents die. At that time, Given says, a real estate agent can help them sort out how much the property is worth and how much is owed. Oftentimes, he adds, daughters and sons "don't have a clue."