With student loans being such a huge debt burden for so many, it makes sense that people want to know if their loans will be forgiven when they pass away. If you are married and have student loans, does your spouse have to pay off those loans if you die? Fortunately, no, but it is not quite so simple.
If you have student debt, your survivors will not have to worry about federal loans. The Department of Education will discharge your student loans if you pass away or become permanently disabled.
You might also be able to get private student loan debt discharged in the event of death or disability. This depends on the terms of your loan agreement and state laws.
Private student loan lenders have the right to check up on you by looking at your credit report. If they notice that a borrower has died, they can contact their survivor and ask them to begin making payments on the loan. In some states, this is legal and binding; in others, it is not. You can find out what the law is in your state here.
The good news is that a private lender can’t demand payment from anyone who did not sign for the loan—not even a spouse who was responsible for paying bills and covering expenses throughout the duration of the marriage. If
Does My Spouse Have To Pay My Student Loans If I Die
If you have student loans, it can sometimes feel like this debt will be stalking you for life. You might worry that your student debt will even outlive you—or wonder what would happen to it if you died.
While it’s a bit of a morbid topic, you should understand what happens to student loans after death. Armed with this knowledge, you can protect yourself, and your loved ones, who might share responsibility for your student loans, against the unthinkable.
Generally, a living spouse will not be held legally responsible for repaying student loans that belonged to the deceased spouse. However, there are some exceptions, such as when the spouse has co-signed the loan.
A spouse might also be required to repay a deceased partner’s private student loans if they reside in a community property state.9
These states include Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.
student loan forgiveness
Student loan forgiveness might seem too good to be true, but there are legitimate ways to get it through free government programs.
The following options are available only to borrowers with federal student loans. Some programs have very specific requirements that make them difficult to qualify for, but income-driven repayment plans are open to most borrowers.
The information below is about existing student loan forgiveness programs. Learn more about the potential for Biden Student Loan Forgiveness.
You’re not eligible for federal student loan forgiveness programs if you have private loans, but there are other strategies for managing private loan debt.
Student loan forgiveness programs
1. Income-driven repayment forgiveness. The federal government offers four main income-driven repayment plans, which allow you to cap your loan payments at a percentage of your monthly income. When enrolled in one of these plans, your remaining loan balance will be eligible for forgiveness after 20 or 25 years, depending on the plan. These plans are most beneficial for those with large loan balances relative to their income. Only 32 borrowers have received loan forgiveness through income-driven repayment forgiveness, according to the National Consumer Law Center. This forgiveness was made tax-free retroactive to Dec. 2020 through the end of 2025, as part of the March 2021 American Rescue Plan. However, most borrowers will not qualify for forgiveness through income-driven repayment until the early 2030s.
2. Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Public Service Loan Forgiveness is available to government and qualifying nonprofit employees with federal student loans. Eligible borrowers can have their remaining loan balance forgiven tax-free after making 120 qualifying loan payments. Until Oct. 31, 2022, the Education Department has expanded which payments on federal student loans count toward PSLF through a limited waiver; now, payments on FFEL and Perkins loans, late payments, and payments made on any repayment plan will retroactively count as qualifying payments.
3. Teacher Loan Forgiveness. Teachers employed full-time in low-income public elementary or secondary schools may be eligible for Teacher Loan Forgiveness after working for five consecutive years. They can have up to $17,500 in federal direct or Stafford loans forgiven. To qualify, teachers must have taken out loans after Oct. 1, 1998.
4. Student loan forgiveness for nurses. Nurses shouldering student debt have several options for student loan forgiveness: Public Service Loan Forgiveness, Perkins loan cancellation, and the NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program, which pays up to 85% of qualified nurses’ unpaid college debt. Public Service Loan Forgiveness may be the most likely option for most nurses — few borrowers have Perkins loans, and the NURSE Corps program is highly competitive.
5. Obama student loan forgiveness. There’s no such thing as “Obama student loan forgiveness.” However, some student “debt relief” companies use it as a catch-all term for free federal programs — which they charge to enroll borrowers in. If you encounter a company offering “Obama student loan forgiveness,” consider it a red flag. Enrolling in federal programs like income-based repayment and federal student loan consolidation is free to do on your own through the Department of Education.
Other student loan forgiveness programs
There are a few additional niche student loan forgiveness or payment assistance programs you may qualify for through federal or state programs. Eligibility in these programs depends on your profession and where you work.
- State-sponsored repayment assistance programs. Licensed teachers, nurses, doctors, and lawyers in certain states may be able to take advantage of programs to assist with repaying debt. For example, the Mississippi Teacher Loan Repayment Program will pay up to $3,000 per year for a maximum of four years on undergraduate educational loans to teachers with a specific teaching license for each year of teaching full-time in a particular geographical or subject area. Contact your state’s higher education department to find out if you qualify for a program.
- Military student loan forgiveness and assistance. Military personnel in the Army, Navy, Air Force, National Guard, and Coast Guard may qualify for their own loan forgiveness programs. In the National Guard, for example, qualifying soldiers and officers could receive up to $50,000 to pay off federal student loans through the Student Loan Repayment Program.
- Additional student loan repayment assistance programs (LRAPs): There may be other national or organizational student loan repayment assistance programs offered for public service professions. The National Institutes of Health, for example, offers up to $35,000 in debt assistance annually to health professionals who are appointed by the institutes to conduct research. The American Bar Association has a list of state LRAPs for lawyers.