Legal Forum to key elderly
by RICK NORTON, Associate Editor
Oct 15, 2012 | 1387 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Reverse mortgages provide a viable option for older homeowners looking to finance an improvement project or those wanting to pay off an existing mortgage, pay for healthcare expenses or supplement their retirement income.

But, like any type of short- or long-term loan package, the consumer should “get the facts” and “be wary of sales pitches,” according to the Federal Trade Commission website (

Cleveland and Bradley County area residents who are considering a reverse mortgage have plenty of sources for information before taking the step, but a close-to-home opportunity is coming Oct. 25 when the Bradley County Bar Association and the Cleveland Bradley Public Library host their next Community Legal Forum.

To get under way at 7 p.m. in the downtown library’s Community Room, the 90-minute session will feature a three-member panel discussion that includes two Cleveland attorneys with expertise in the field, and the president of a local mortgage company.

Local lawyer Jack Tapper, who has volunteered his time over the past two years to bring such forums to the public on behalf of the Bar Association, will serve as one of the panelists. He also will moderate the open discussion.

His co-panelists will include Cleveland attorney George McCoin and Kim Casteel, president of USA Mortgage Inc. According to information provided by Tapper, the group will discuss in detail “... issues concerning the consequences of transferring deeds of homes of elderly parents to avoid loss due to long-term nursing home expenses, and what you really need to know about reverse mortgages, and the pros and cons of entering such transactions.”

Past Legal Forums have concentrated on a variety of domestic issues, but this will be the first open discussion on reverse mortgages. That’s because of the timeliness. More and more marketers are using advertising outlets to promote the financing product. This is stirring the interest of local homeowners who might qualify, which subsequently has led to requests for public information using forums such as those offered by the Bar Association, Tapper explained.

“We have had numerous requests to explore this topic and inform the public,” Tapper said.

Although reverse mortgages are expected to dominate the discussion, the new trend in home-equity loans will be only one of two timely subjects.

The pair of themes include:

1. “What You Need to Know About Saving Mama’s Home ... Warning: Don’t Transfer Until You Hear What We Have to Say; What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You”; and

2. “Reverse Mortgages Explained: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.”

“This forum will provide the answers and the facts for not only the seniors, but for their adult children to make a meaningful decision on not only what to do, but whether it’s worth the attempt,” Tapper said.

As has been the case in past forums, Tapper stressed the events are not offered to the community as sales promotions for a product or even for making personal recommendations. The purpose of the forums is to present objective discussion — mostly from a legal perspective — on topics of general household and individual interest.

Of the Oct. 25 session, Tapper said this is especially the case thanks to Casteel’s presence. Although she leads a Cleveland mortgage company, Casteel is attending in order to discuss the full gamut of consequences involving reverse mortgages and other issues — from the good to the ugly, Tapper stressed.

“We want to assure the public that we’re not here to promote or sell such mortgages, but to open eyes to just what is involved in the transaction,” Tapper noted. “[We want the public] to hear not just the ‘good,’ but also ‘the bad and the ugly’ aspects.”

Attending the forum will allow households — including elderly parents and their adult children — to make informed decisions, he said.

“This is the public’s chance to find out what they need to know about significant issues affecting their lives,” Tapper said. “We are looking forward to an enthusiastic turnout as part of this ongoing public service project.”

According to the FTC website, reverse mortgages come in three types:

1. Single-purpose reverse mortgages that are offered by some state and local government agencies and nonprofit organizations;

2. Federally-insured reverse mortgages, known as Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECMs), that are backed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD); and

3. Proprietary reverse mortgages which are private loans that are backed by the companies that develop them.

Full descriptions of each are available on the FTC website.

The upcoming Community Legal Forum is free to the public. Although seating is first come, first served, the public is urged to call ahead at 423-472-2163, ext. 126, to the downtown library to confirm attendance.

The Bar Association and the public library traditionally team to provide the legal forums as a joint project to support “equal access to justice for all citizens,” Tapper noted. Bar Association members who participate in the community sessions are doing so as unpaid volunteers.

How It Started:

The ongoing partnership between the Bradley County Bar Association and the Cleveland Bradley County Public Library was created by the Bradley County Commission as the Bradley County Governmental Law Library Commission. The commission funds and maintains the Law Library section of the public library for the public’s access to legal research materials. Funds come from a small percentage of the courts’ filing fees from civil and criminal litigation in the county. The Bar Association helps to oversee the functionality of the legal resource section of the library.

The library has a complete self-help, online legal research system that enables the public to access and download published legal opinions of all courts of Tennessee. It also has a section of hard-copy legal books for the statutes of Tennessee, and other books that provide sample legal forms.

The Library Commission is made up of unpaid volunteers representing the County Commission, the Bar Association and the library. Current members are Jeff Morelock, County Commission; Jack Tapper, Bar Association; and Andrew Hunt, library director.

Hunt is a permanent board member. The other members serve two-year appointments on behalf of their respective organizations. Each is eligible for reappointment.

Tapper created, and directs, the Community Legal Forums on behalf of the Bar Association and the public library. He moderates the forums and often serves as a panel member.