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What Happens to Student Loans upon Death

Shutterstock_172081169Outliving a child is every parent’s worst nightmare. Imagine the grief of not only losing a child, but to violence, as was the case for this New Jersey mother. Unfortunately, her grief is now compounded by the additional financial and emotional strain of being forced to pay off her son’s student loans. It is, fortunately, an uncommon situation, but it does happen.

While there are some provisions for federal loans to be discharged in the event of death, state programs and private lenders are not always so compassionate. At a time when students and families are excited about the prospect of living out the American educational dream, death is the last thing on anyone’s mind. Many parents and other family members co-sign on loans without a moment’s notice of what would lie ahead financially should the worst happen to their student.

For those who understand the value of life insurance, typically a life event such as marriage, birth of a child or purchase of a house triggers an application for coverage. However, receiving student loans is another circumstance that should be seriously considered as a trigger event for looking into life insurance coverage.

Most young people (and oftentimes, their parents) over-estimate the cost of coverage. In addition, the process is shrouded in mystery and there are many places to look for coverage. It can be an intimidating process to start. One often-neglected source is through an association affiliation (e.g. alumni or professional associations). Because these association programs are typically group coverage, they can offer better rates and easier underwriting processes than an individual can get on their own – and the insurance company usually cannot raise rates for an individual alone.

When co-signing on a loan, families should consider if it makes sense to carry life insurance coverage on their student. Because of their young age and generally good health, coverage is much easier to secure at a lesser cost. Should the worst happen to the student, the family can choose to use the insurance payout to cover the cost of any loans that cannot be discharged, allowing them to grieve properly without the added financial distress.


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