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New Law Aims To Reduce Foreclosure Risk For Surviving Family Members

Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

After Angie Depew's husband died unexpectedly she was grief-stricken.

She says she practically lived with her head under a pillow that first year — she couldn't deal with much. She kept up mortgage payments on their Eureka home using a small life insurance policy.

The problems began when Depew tried to contact the loan servicer to let them know her husband had died and she might be late on a payment or two while she sorted things out.

The voice at the other end of the line said the lender couldn't share any information with Depew because her name was not on the loan. She says she was terrified she'd lose her home.

"The frustration and anger that I felt when they basically hung up on me," Depew says. "I tried to call back and every time I called they said 'Your name is not on the loan and we can't give you any information.' And I just thought 'How on earth am I ever going to take care of this if I can't get anybody to talk to me about it?'"

Under a law that goes into effect Jan. 1, lenders will be required to "talk about it" with surviving family members.

Lenders will need to provide a single point of contact and accurate information for surviving family members who wish to modify or assume the loan. Lenders will also have to tell borrowers about specific programs to help them avoid foreclosure.

As for Depew she eventually connected to a housing advocate. But even with legal aid, Depew says it took 20 months to get her name on the loan and secure her home.

She hopes the new law will spare surviving family members this kind of ordeal.

New Law Deals With Death In The Digital Age

Preparing a will in the digital age means treating social media and email accounts as personal assets. A new state law sets out guidelines for how a person's digital assets can be accessed and managed after their death. 

Under the new law people will have several ways to specify how their digital assets will be dealt with once they're gone. They can spell out instructions in a will or they can use an online tool to designate someone to access and manage their email, social media and banking information.

Either way a person's written instructions would override terms-of-service agreements from companies such as Facebook.

The law takes effect on Jan. 1 and it applies to videos, music, social media and financial information from paperless banking accounts.

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