What Happens to Student Loans When You Die?

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What Happens to Student Loans When You Die

Student loans seem to hang around like unwanted guests, overshadowing the lives of numerous former students. To many, these loans seem like they’ll go on forever, stretching out into eternity. But what happens to all financial baggage when someone’s journey on this earth comes to an end? Read on to learn what happens to student loan debt when you die.

What happens to federal student loans when you die?

According to the U.S. Department of Education, federal student loans are discharged when you die, meaning they are forgiven and the borrower’s estate is not held responsible for repayment.

Borrowers need to familiarize themselves with the terms and conditions of their specific loans to fully understand what happens in the event of their death. By reviewing the loan agreements, they can gain clarity on the precise procedures and provisions that govern such circumstances.

What happens to private student loans when you die?

When it comes to private student loans, the fate of these loans takes a different path upon the borrower’s death. According to Experian, most private lenders will discharge debt when the borrower dies, but this isn’t always the case.

In some cases, the burden of repayment falls upon the borrower’s estate. If the borrower had a co-signer on the loan, the co-signer may become responsible for repaying the loan after the borrower’s death.

Borrowers and their families should review the loan agreement as the specific terms and conditions outlined in the loan agreement determine what happens to the debt when the borrower dies. 

What proof of death is needed to discharge a student loan?

The specific proof of death requirements for seeking a discharge from a borrower’s death can vary from lender to lender. 

The most frequently asked-for documents include a death certificate, which is an official record issued by the vital records office or similar authority. This document serves as a formal confirmation of the borrower’s death and is generally considered the primary evidence required. 

What happens to Parent PLUS Loans when you die?

When a borrower of a Parent PLUS loan passes away, it can be a difficult and emotional time for their family. In such circumstances, a potential relief is that the loan is typically discharged and the borrower’s estate is not held responsible for repayment.

Does your family have a tax obligation on your discharged student loans if you die?

According to Conor Mahlmann, a certified student loan professional and student loan advisor for Student Loan Planner, the discharge of student loan debt after death is typically considered taxable income. The estate would be responsible for the taxes on the discharged loan, treating it as an unsecured debt along with other obligations that must be settled by the estate.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has temporarily waived this tax responsibility on discharged student loan debt due to death through 2025. This means that, for the time being, the discharged loan amount may not be subject to federal income tax. 

Do you have to pay your parents’ student loans if they die?

If your parents had federal student loans, they are typically discharged upon their death and the estate is not held responsible for repayment. Private student loans may have different terms and conditions, so it’s important to review the specific loan agreements to understand the provisions regarding repayment after the borrower’s passing.

Student loan debt is generally not transferable to another individual upon the borrower’s death. As a child or family member, you are typically not responsible for repaying your parents’ student loans after their death.

How do you report a death to a student loan servicer?

To report a death to a student loan servicer, follow these general steps.

Gather necessary documentation: Obtain multiple copies of an official death certificate issued by the vital records office or relevant authority.

Contact the student loan servicer: Reach out to the student loan servicer as soon as possible to inform them about the borrower’s death. Locate their contact information on loan statements, their website, or through online account access.

Provide the required information: During the call or communication with the loan servicer, be prepared to provide the borrower’s identifying information, such as their full name, Social Security number, and loan account details. Inform them of the borrower’s death and mention that you are reporting it to initiate the necessary processes.

Follow the instructions provided: The loan servicer will guide you through its specific process for handling the borrower’s loan account after death. It may request additional documentation, such as a copy of the death certificate or other forms it requires to verify the information.

Submit the necessary documentation: Provide the requested documentation promptly and accurately. This process may include submitting copies of the death certificate or other forms or affidavits required by the loan servicer.

Maintain communication: Stay in contact with the loan servicer throughout the process. Respond to additional requests or inquiries it may have in a timely manner. Keep track of all communication and documentation for your records.

8 ways to protect your family 

You can take a few important steps right now to help protect your family from the potential financial impact of your student loans if you were to die unexpectedly. 

1. Discuss with your parents or other trusted persons

It’s important to have open and honest conversations with your parents or other trusted individuals about your student loans. Share information about your loans, including the type, terms, and any applicable discharge policies, to ensure everyone is aware of the situation. Designate someone you trust to handle your affairs and communicate their role clearly.

2. Consider a death discharge policy 

A death discharge policy means that if you were to pass away, the remaining loan balance would be forgiven, sparing your family from the financial responsibility. 

3. Double-check the policy of your private lender

If you have a private student loan, review the discharge policy carefully. Some private lenders may not offer death discharge provisions or include co-signer release options. In such cases, it is essential to ask your lender about the possibility of co-signer release to permanently remove them from your loan, ensuring that they are not burdened with repayment if you die.

4. Consider refinancing

By refinancing, you open up possibilities to reduce your interest rate, lower your monthly payments, and extend the repayment term. These adjustments can ease the burden of your loans for your loved ones, ensuring that they can manage the payments even if you’re no longer there to pay. 

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5. Get on an income-driven repayment plan

Income-driven or income-based repayment plans adjust your monthly payments based on your income and family size. By opting for such a plan, you can ease the financial strain on your family if they were to become responsible for your loans after your death.

6. Request deferment or forbearance 

In certain situations, you may be eligible for deferment or forbearance, which temporarily pauses or reduces your loan payments. If you anticipate financial difficulties that could impact your family’s ability to manage your loans after your death, contacting your loan servicer to discuss deferment or forbearance options can provide temporary relief until a more sustainable solution is found.

7. Ask for an adjusted payment plan

Exploring options for lower monthly payments or extended repayment terms can alleviate the strain on your family should they assume responsibility for the loan in the future.

8. Increase the coverage of your life insurance policy

Obtaining a life insurance policy that provides a payout to your estate is a proactive measure to protect your family from the financial responsibility of your student debts upon your death

Finding financial peace

So, while the notion of student loans enduring indefinitely may loom in your mind, rest assured that in the event of your death, federal student loans are typically discharged. For private student loans, the rules are a little different so you’ll want to contact the lender or review your loan agreement. 

By making informed decisions and seeking professional guidance when needed, you can better protect your family’s financial well-being and pave the way for a brighter future, free from the overwhelming burden of student loan debt.


Can you include your student loans in your will to be forgiven after your death?

No, you cannot include your student loans in your will to be automatically forgiven after your death. The discharge of student loans after death typically follows specific policies and procedures set by the loan servicer or lender.

How can you ensure that your student loans are discharged upon your death?

To ensure that your student loans are discharged upon your death, it is crucial for your executor to communicate with your loan servicer or lender and provide it with the necessary documentation, such as a death certificate. Following its specific procedures and requirements will help facilitate the discharge process.

Can the government collect from your estate for unpaid student loan debt when you die?

Yes, the government can collect unpaid student loan debt from your estate after your death. If you have federal student loans, the remaining balance can be collected from your estate through the Department of Education or the loan servicer. Private lenders may also have the right to pursue repayment from your estate based on the terms and conditions of the loan agreement.

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