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Does Student Debt Die With You?

Chloe Meltzer | December 01, 2022

Wondering if your student debt will outlive you?

Summary: You already know how difficult it is to make student debt go away. But does your student debt die with you? Find out if student debt lives on when you're gone.

Over 43 million people owe student loan debt in the United States totaling over $1.7 trillion. This means that student loans are a serious problem for many people, leading them to feel like they may never pay it off.

If you die, your student loan debt may either be discharged or passed to a loved one. Although this is a sad topic, it is important to consider who might share responsibility for your student loans should you pass away before they are paid off. To understand if your debt will die with you, you must examine the type of student debt you have acquired.

Federal Student Loans

When it comes to federal student loans, all are dischargeable upon the death of the borrower. This is one of the main benefits of student loans because they will not be passed onto your family should you die. Upon your death, your debt will be completely forgiven. Should this occur, someone will be required to submit proof of death to the student loan servicer who is managing the debt.

Parent PLUS loans are also considered federal loans. This means that if you have a parent PLUS loan and your parent dies, the loan will discharge with them as well. The same is true should you die as well.

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Private Student Loans

Private student loans are afforded less protection than federal loans. This is because private lenders have no legal obligation to cancel or discharge student loan debt if the borrower dies. Although some private lenders, such as Sallie Mae, will discharge the current balance after death, not all will agree to this.

Should you be faced with this situation, review your lending agreement. There should be a clause that states how your private student loans are handled in the case of a death.

It is good to note that if the lender will not discharge the loan, then the balance will be passed on. This means that the debts will be passed on to the estate, and be settled through a probate process. If there is not enough money in the estate to cover the cost of the debt, then typically it will simply not be paid rather than be passed on to a family member.

Co-Signed Student Loans

If you die and someone has co-signed on your student loans, then they may be legally required to pay back the loan upon your death. This is especially common when it comes to co-signed private student loans. This is because the borrower and the co-signer are seen as equal borrowers in the eyes of the lender.

There are some situations in the case of co-signed student death that can cause issues for the borrower should the co-signer pass. Some private loan agreements include a clause for the lender to place the borrower into default should the co-signer die. The lender may then demand that the student loans be paid in full.

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Your Spouses Student Loans

Most often, a living spouse will not legally need to repay the student loans of their deceased partner. The only case in which this is legally required is if the loan is co-signed by the living spouse.

Another reason that you may be required to pay for your partners student loans is if you live in a community property state. Community property states require the surviving spouse to pay off the debt with property or monetary value shared by both partners in the marriage.

Community property states include:

  • California
  • Idaho
  • Wisconsin
  • Louisiana
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • Texas
  • Arizona
  • Washington

How to Report a Death to a Student Loan Lender

If someone you love has died, then there are various steps to settling the affairs. One step includes reporting the death to any lenders or creditors. When it comes to federal student loans, you must provide proof of death. Proof of death includes:

  • Death certificate
  • Verification of death from an official of the county clerk's office
  • Letter from a funeral director
  • Confirmation of death through a credit bureau

Depending on the creditor or loan officer, different documents may be required and each department may have a different process. If this is a situation that you are in, you can reach out to the lender to learn about their process. You should also work closely with the person acting as executor of the estate. This will allow you to ensure that the entire process is carried out in the manner that it should be, and by the person who is required to do so.

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