Reverse Mortgage Key to Plot of New Comedy Film

A new, independent comedy film released this month has an unexpected detail folded into its plot that serves as the jumping-off point for the story it aims to tell: a reverse mortgage.

“Sword of Trust,” a new independent film starring comedians Marc Maron and Jillian Bell, features the use of a reverse mortgage to explain why a deceased man’s granddaughter (played by Bell) does not inherit his home upon his death. Instead, he bequeaths to her an antique sword that he alleges, in a written note, serves as proof that the Confederacy won the American Civil War in the 1860’s.

This leads the granddaughter and her partner to try and sell the “valuable” artifact to the disgruntled owner of a pawn shop (played by Maron), but they soon discover that it is also being aggressively sought after by Civil War conspiracy theorists.

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While a reverse mortgage is merely used within the story to set up some of the finer details of the plot, the film nevertheless represents the idea that foreclosure and sale of a home after the death of the borrower is a relatively common way for the transaction to be concluded, but the inclusion of a reverse mortgage in the story is only given cursory detail.

While not common, reverse mortgages do occasionally appear in feature films, including 2016’s neo-Western heist film “Hell or High Water” starring Jeff Bridges and Chris Pine, which went on to be nominated for Best Picture at the following year’s Academy Awards.

Unlike that film, however, “Sword of Trust” does not appear to be concerned with or interested in painting a reverse mortgage as a predatory loan against a senior. It basically helps to facilitate why the borrower’s granddaughter did not have access to the home as an heir, and why she receives the titular sword instead.

“Sword of Trust” is co-written and directed by Seattle-area filmmaker Lynn Shelton, and features a 93 percent approval rating according to film review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes. It is now playing in select theaters on a limited release, and is also available for rental at Video On Demand (VOD) services like Amazon Video and Vudu.

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  • Foreclosure without borrower eviction is a very common way for HECMs to terminate. It is a risky loan as seen in the cumulative losses that FHA absorbs through its MMIF. Pragmatically it is the forward FHA insured residential mortgage programs which today absorb HECM losses in the MMIF.

    I have not seen this movie but like most biased presentations of HECM foreclosures, this movie probably never discloses how HECM proceeds lowered or prevented the need of support payments from heirs. Instead like most detractors, the idea is to gain audience interest at the loss of helping seniors realize the benefit of enjoying their retirement in relative financial independence for a longer period of time through a HECM. It also never addresses the fact that in most cases, getting title to the home is not the real concern of heirs but rather a lower net estate than they were incorrectly planning on. Most heirs do not want the property but rather the near maximum cash they can obtain through selling the home.

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