Reverse mortgages offer different type estate-looting opportunity

Over the years during which Robert Wagner comes on television advertising the benefits of reverse mortgages, we always cringe.  Not only does it seem an opportunity for individuals to naively make incredibly bad financial decisions, but reverse mortgages have always struck us as a mechanism whose creative use could likely assist in estate looting actions.

While this reverse mortgage story is not about probate instrument abuse via wills, trusts, guardianships or powers of attorney on which we generally report, it illustrates one dangerous financial instrument.  Most of the estate looting we discuss is either perpetrated by private individuals, the legal industry or government.  Financial institutions often have a hand in probate abuse, but are more often contributing partners rather than initiators.  We’ve always suspected they weren’t above the looting action, just had to be on their terms.  Reverse mortgages seem to be a case of having found those terms.

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Our story is about my parents, Patricia and Richard Hickerson who were sold a reverse mortgage that was not needed or appropriate for their circumstances.  It’s a tragic story of deceit, fraud and purposefully targeting vulnerable seniors to deprive them of their property, retirement, dignity and quality of life.

Mom and Dad were good, caring, and trusting  people who worked all their lives to provide for each other and their family.  They lived in a modest home they took pride in for 25 years.  Mom and Dad volunteered together delivering  “Meals on Wheels” and Mom volunteered for the city and thriftshop.  They enjoyed giving back to the community where they lived.


In April of 2002 Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and could no longer balance a checkbook or manage the family finances as she had all her married life.  By 2003 mom was unable make change for a twenty dollar bill.  She required assistance in basic activities of daily living.

Dad had been suffering from 9 major illnesses for more than 10 years, including heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes.  By 2004 he also had metastatic cancer in his head and advanced liver cancer.  Dad knew he was dying but  he never told anyone.  He never complained or told us how much he was suffering.

In January 2005 Dad applied for long term care insurance for Mom and himself.  They were denied coverage because of their medical history and the fact that Mom would need long term care for Alzheimer’s disease.


In 2005 Dad noticed the TV ads featuring James Garner and Robert Wagner talking about the benefits of Financial Freedom Reverse Mortgages.  Dad responded to a mailer wanting to know what a reverse mortgage was.

On March 11, 2005 a sales representative came into their home and gave a mis-leading generic presentation full of all sorts of benefits that did not apply to my parents circumstances or financial situation.  He brought with him a Pacific Reverse Mortgage generated loan application, good faith estimate, disclosures and amortization schedule based on property value guesstimated by my dad to be $650,000.

A formal property appraisal was done later and came in at $530,000 – 20% less than Dad’s estimate.  The salesman’s only disclosure was the appraisal came in lower but Dad would get about the same amount of money.

The mandatory counseling required for reverse mortgages is a joke!  There is no counseling on the things that should matter – what is the financial situation, health, long term need, legal and tax consequences of a reverse mortgage on these critical end of life issues?

On May 12,2005 hundreds of pages of the reverse mortgage contract were presented to my parent’s for signature.  This was the first and only time my parents would see the contract with the correct figures based on the formal appraisal.  ONLY 12 pages of the signed contract were left with my parents, none of which contained any of the critical terms of the contract such as the lien amount, right of rescission, HUD closing statement, deed of trust, closing costs, etc.

The Reverse Mortgage my parents received was:

One time lump sum payment            $  81,000

For this the lenders:

Paid off existing mortgage                  $121,000
Charged Fees  and costs*                  $  25,000
Property LIEN                                      $470,000

Financial Freedom and Pacific Reverse Mortgage prey on vulnerable seniors by never doing the “right thing” to make sure the consequences of their loans will do no harm.  They did nothing but  gain my parents trust, and steal their home.


One month after signing the reverse mortgage contract Dad passed away.  It breaks my heart that Dad’s dying wish to care for mom for the rest of her life, was stolen from him.  If the terms were explained simply and honestly that for a one time payment of $81,000 (15% *of their property value) they would pay $25,000* in fees and costs in exchange for their home, dad would never have agreed.  Let’s be real – who in their right mind would agree to these terms?

The reverse mortgage lien prevented us from accessing the more than $400,000 equity in our home.  Since Dad passed away I am a full time caregiver to mom and have paid for her care and living expenses for the last five years with her savings, portfolio and social security.  Today, we have no funds remaining and are in the negative every month.

This didn’t just happen to my parents.  There are thousands of other families with similar devastating reverse mortgage stories.  It is happening everyday to someone’s parents, relatives or friends.

  • Mary Campbell

    This is so true, this story is almost exactly like mine, but my mother was already gone and it was my dad that took it out – same company – same contract, without any figures included – now my dad is gone and I am going through probate to try and keep the house even though the reverse mortgage is under water – but I have run out of extensions with the reverse mortgage company and my probate is delayed and now they want to start forclosure – reverse mortgage and probabte don’t like each other and if I understood more about the reverse mortgage or was able to be involved in the “over the phone” counsling – what a joke – this house would have been paid off long before my dad ever passed away – but, like life in general, lesson learned – anyone considering a reverse mortgage or have a parent or loved one that is considering – please really look at what you are getting into before you do it –