“I am a retired teacher who is still paying off loans for my Masters degree and at the same time the older of my two children has begun accruing her own student loans and the younger child will be headed to college and getting those loans in another year and a half. I foresee helping pay these down until I die...death, taxes, and student loans are now inevitable.”
– Karen, El Paso TX

When you have student loan debt it can feel like your repayments will never end and that even once you die, the debt collectors will come knocking on your grave for just a little more. Death, taxes and... student loans.

While our own deaths, or that of a loved one, are not events any of us likes to consider, being informed for end of life is an important part of financial health. Will your own students loans still be collected after death or could you potentially be responsible for a family members’ student loan debt? Find out.

What You Need To Know

  • Federal student loans are discharged in the event of death of the borrower.To get the deceased's federal student loans canceled, you must present the lender with a certificate of death.
  • Parent PLUS loans are also discharged in the event of death of the student or the parent (borrower).
  • However, the student dies, the cancelled Parent PLUS loans count as taxable income for the parents so the parents may still owe a sum of money in taxes.
  • Private student loans may or may not be discharged in the event of death of the borrower.
  • If you have no cosigner, the borrower may come for your estate to collect the debt after you death.
  • If you have a cosigner, that person will be responsible for your debt in the event of your death.If your spouse passes away with student loan debt, in certain states you could be responsible — event if you were not married when the loans were first taken out.

What You Need To Do

  • Those with private student loan debt should contact their borrower to learn about their policy regarding discharging debt after death.
  • If you’ve graduated and made more than 36 months of payments, you may want to consider having your cosigner sign a cosigner release, which frees them from responsibility for your debt.
  • Parents or spouses who may be responsible for debt should consider having a life insurance policy for the borrower, which could help with expenses in case of a tragedy.
  • You should also consider student loan refinance to consolidate your loans and therefore lessen the potential lenders who could come collecting after death.

Go Deeper

Navient, a major loan company formerly part of Sally Mae, is responsible for the debt of 12 million borrowers. Thousands of complaints have been filed against Navient for unethical practices — one of which includes chasing borrowers beyond the grave.

Read the story of a 23-year-old who died in a car accident and whose guarantors are now being harassed to repay nearly $50,000 of his student loan debt.