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Justice for 94-Year-Old Geraldine Tyler

On 25 May recently, the United States Supreme Court handed down a unanimous decision in favor of a 94-year-old Minnesota woman whose home equity had been confiscated by her county government over ten years ago. Feeling unsafe in her community, Geraldine Tyler left her condominium. She got behind on her tax payments, and the local government foreclosed on her home. She owed roughly $15K; the house sold for $40K; the county kept the difference, and Ms. Tyler received nothing back. Overturning decisions of lower courts, the Supreme Court ruled that Hennepin County had violated Geraldine Tyler’s Fifth Amendment rights and was entitled as a government entity to only enough money to cover outstanding debts, not to realize a profit from seizing her house.

I think all of us can see the importance of this decision. The existing Minnesota law was effectively a punishment. What boundaries do we want our government to follow when it is enforcing its demands? This SCOTUS decision provides some protections for the most vulnerable members of our society.

Abandoned homes and falling behind in payments are a not-uncommon theme in the world of estate settlement. Tragically, many people are unaware that they don’t always “lose everything” when a house is foreclosed upon. The previous homeowners will sometimes have tens of thousands of dollars waiting for them — or more — and they don’t even know it.

Please don’t let that be you!