What Happens To Student Loans When You Die? The Truth

published on 20 November 2023

What happens to student loans when you die? It's a topic that, while sensitive, deserves clarity and understanding.

In this article, we'll answer the question in depth and what it looks like for those with federal and private student loans, PLUS loans, co-signed loans, and the potential impact on spouses.

Let's unravel the truth about what happens to student loans in the event of a borrower's passing.

What happens to federal student loan debt when you die?

In the case of federal student loans, the debt is discharged upon the death of the borrower. The debt will be discharged after the required proof of death is submitted.

What happens to my parent’s PLUS loan if my parent dies or if I die?

Parent PLUS loans are federal loans borrowed by parents to support their child's education. A Parent PLUS loan is discharged if the parent dies or if the student on whose behalf a parent obtained the loan dies.

Parents with PLUS loans are encouraged to contact their loan servicer promptly in the event of a borrower's passing to initiate the discharge process.

What proof of death is needed to discharge a loan?

Federal student loan debt will be discharged if a family member or other representative provides the loan servicer (AidvantageMOHELA, Nelnet, or Edfinancial) acceptable documentation of the borrower's or parent's death.

Here are some examples of acceptable documentation:

  1. Original death certificate
  2. A certified copy of the death certificate
  3. An accurate and complete photocopy of one of the above documents

What happens to private student loan debt when you die?

Private student loans operate under the terms and conditions set by individual lenders. Unlike federal loans, private student loans may not always offer the same level of borrower protection in the event of death.

The outcome largely depends on the specific terms outlined in the loan agreement and the policies of the lending institution.

For example Earnest, a private student loan lender, discharges the debt in the event of a borrower's death. SoFi does as well, but if the co-signer dies, the student is still responsible.

Options for Private Student Loans:

Cosigned Loans: If the borrower had a cosigner on the private student loan, the cosigner may become responsible for the outstanding debt. It's crucial for cosigners to be aware of their obligations and potential liability.

Estate Settlement: In some cases, private student loan debt may be addressed during the settlement of the borrower's estate. The outstanding balance may need to be repaid using the assets from the estate.

Lender Policies: Private lenders may have specific policies regarding the handling of student loan debt in the event of a borrower's death. It's advisable to contact the lender directly to understand their procedures and options available.

What happens to co-signed loans when you die?

Co-signed student loans involve shared responsibility for repayment. When one of the co-borrowers passes away, the implications for the surviving co-borrower depend on the type of loan and the lender's policies.

Private Co-signed Student Loans:

Private lenders may hold the surviving co-borrower fully responsible for the remaining debt. The terms and conditions outlined in the loan agreement dictate the specific obligations of each co-borrower.

We'll say it again, it's essential for individuals with private student loans to review the terms of their loan agreements and communicate with the lender to gain clarity on the potential outcomes.

Is my husband or wife responsible for your student loans if you die?

The responsibility for a deceased spouse's student loans varies based on factors such as the type of loan, whether it's federal or private, and the presence of a co-signer. Let's explore the scenarios:

Federal Student Loans:

Discharge for Death: Federal student loans are discharged upon the death of the borrower. If the deceased had federal student loans, the surviving spouse is not responsible for the repayment.

Private Student Loans:

Dependent on Loan Terms: For private student loans, the spouse's responsibility depends on the loan terms. If the surviving spouse is a co-borrower, they may assume full responsibility for the remaining debt. If the loan is solely in the name of the deceased, the outcome may vary based on the lender's policies.

It's crucial for spouses to review the loan agreements, communicate with the lender, and seek legal advice with a student debt lawyer if needed to fully understand their obligations.

Final Thoughts

Navigating the impact of a borrower's death on student loans requires a nuanced understanding of the type of loans involved and the specific circumstances.

While federal student loans come with discharge options in the event of death, private loans and co-signed arrangements may lead to different outcomes.

To ensure a smooth process, it's advisable for individuals with student loans to:

Review Loan Agreements: Understand the terms and conditions outlined in the loan agreements, including any provisions related to the borrower's death.

Communicate with Lenders: Reach out to loan servicers promptly to notify them of the borrower's passing and inquire about available options.

Seek Legal Guidance: In complex situations, seeking legal advice can provide clarity on responsibilities and potential courses of action.

While the topic is undoubtedly sensitive, being informed and proactive can help ease the burden on loved ones during challenging times. Remember, every situation is unique, and seeking personalized advice is key to making well-informed decisions.

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