Spinster…Really?!

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
April 30, 2000

I never knew I was a spinster until my bank told me so.

It’s true I am an unmarried woman. I like to think of myself as an independent, financially secure woman who is capable of buying a home by myself.

But I suppose that takes up too much space on the line next to my name.

My married friends didn’t have to deal with this humiliation when they signed up for their mortgages. And my single guy friends were described as “bachelor.”

So how come I was thrown into the same category as the hapless Miss Hathaway from the “Beverly Hillbillies”?

“It’s an archaic legal term that they don’t use that much these days,” says Robert Sternberg, an attorney in the Buffalo Grove law firm of Kovitz Shifrin & Waitzman. “But there are still some people stuck in the Middle Ages who use it.

“I think a lot of the newer documents are using more modern terms, (such as) `unmarried man’ or `unmarried woman.’ “

But why do lenders need to designate marital status at all on these contracts?

“It’s because of the homestead laws,” Sternberg says. “The lender wants to know whether or not there could be any homestead exemption or marital rights that the spouse may have in the property. So they want to make it clear whether or not the purchaser is married.”

Or a spinster.

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