By Stacey Singer DeLoye
For 40 years the Rolle family had lived in the same modest home in the Miami area.
Ten Rolle children grew up in that 1,200-square-foot house. But as the patriarch of the Rolle family grew older, he took out a reverse mortgage to help with living expenses. Additional small home-improvement loans from the county went toward repairing the roof and other needs.
After the Rolle children’s father died, though, his reverse mortgage became due and payable, and foreclosure proceedings began.
In crisis mode, one of the children, Cleygon Rolle, sought help from Legal Services of Greater Miami, a Florida Bar Foundation grantee, to save the home. LSGMI staff attorney Jacqueline Ledon defended against the foreclosure and filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy to give Rolle flexibility to work with the lenders. She also enlisted the help of pro bono attorneys to handle other real estate and probate aspects of the case.
Miami-Dade County, which was owed for four separate home-improvement mortgages, offered to put its loans in second position to the new mortgage, but the new lender would not accept. The county went above and beyond to help Rolle, accepting a settlement payment that satisfied the debts, which was instrumental in helping Rolle obtain a new mortgage, Ledon said. At that point, Rolle, a veteran, was able to obtain a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs mortgage so he could pay off the 95 percent of appraised value needed to satisfy the terms of the reverse mortgage.
“This is somebody who has never done anything wrong. He didn’t default on his mortgage, he didn’t fall on hard times. He had been pre-approved for a VA loan. It’s just that the process to complete a reverse mortgage short sale, which was essentially what this was, to get it done is nearly impossible,” Ledon said. “I don’t know how many times I said, ‘The stars have to align, and it’s going to be a miracle if we pull this off.’”
But pull it off they did.
Doing so required the close collaboration of Legal Services of Greater Miami; Patricia K. Green of Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler Alhadeff & Sitterson, P.A., who handled the real estate transaction; and Robert C. Segear, then of Markowitz, Ringel, Trusty & Hartog, who administered the probate estate for the 10 heirs. Over a period of six months, the attorneys raced the clock to prevent the foreclosure.
“This was his father’s home, his family’s home. Losing the family’s home would not have been a good outcome,” Green said.
A big challenge was the sheer number of children.
“They were located all across the country,” Ledon said. “They actually scheduled a family reunion to get as much done as quickly as possible.”
The American Bar Association’s Celebrate Pro Bono Week Oct. 23-29, highlights volunteer efforts of lawyers who provide greater access to the legal system by donating services. This case took a team of pro-bono lawyers and goodwill of lenders to settle, Ledon noted. By working together closely, the lawyers managed to meet all parties’ needs and ensure that Rolle, a corrections worker, kept his longtime home, Green said.
“This was what we call a ‘law school exam’,” Green said. “It had everything in it. It had foreclosure and short sale issues. It had bankruptcy issues. It had probate issues. It had transfer issues. It had everything.”
“Over the years, I’ve done many pro bono things, and every time you do something like that, there is a level of satisfaction or contentment that you contributed to your community in some small way.”
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