Parents Struggle To Pay Dead Daughter’s Student Loan Debt And They Should Not Have To
In news that will make you want to cry, a California couple is struggling to pay off their deceased 27-year old daughter’s student loan debt to the tune of $200,000. What started off as $100,000 has ballooned since her 2009 death due to late fees and interest. I think this is unconscionable and the student loan debt of a deceased person should be forgiven, particularly if it will become a burden to their survivors.
According to Today.com, Steve and Darnell Mason lost their daughter Lisa suddenly to liver failure in 2009. Lisa left behind three young children that her parents are now raising. Steve signed off on her loans when she went back to school, obviously never thinking that her death would be the reason for non-payment requiring the co-signer to bear the burden.
“Most people don’t think about a 25-year-old dying,” Steve said. “I co-signed in the event she didn’t make her payments. I wasn’t thinking it would be a situation in which she couldn’t make her payments, because of her death…Most of the people who find themselves in this position were like us. We always had good credit. We always paid our bills. But when it becomes just impossible to do, and there’s no recourse, you’re just trapped.”
In what is already a nightmare situation, this couple has now had to fight with debt collectors for the past five years, even going as far as sending them her death certificate to try to have her loans forgiven. As her father notes, other forms of debt can be discharged in bankruptcy but student loans cannot.
“The frustration for me is that I can incur any other kind of debt — I can buy luxuries, I can travel, I can do all kinds of things — and that debt can be discharged in bankruptcy if I become unable to pay for it,” Steve told TODAY.com. “This debt, where young people are falling into debt to better themselves to become productive members of society, can’t be discharged through bankruptcy. It seems like it’s backwards.”
Now, I don’t think all college students should be able to declare bankruptcy for their debt and then bide their time until their credit improves but I firmly believe that the student loan debt of a deceased person should be nullified upon their death so as to not become a financial burden to their families. This couple is trying to raise three children right now and they are struggling. I understand that this is a different situation as this father co-signed on private loans and he is now legally responsible for them- had he not co-signed, the loans would have been forgiven upon this young woman’s death. However, as Mason stated- he was not thinking his 25-year old daughter would pass away before the loans had been paid and signed off on them to help his daughter secure a better future for herself and her three children. I think any parent can relate to the urge to help their child, no matter the circumstance. I’m sure he thought he was doing something good and now it’s ruining his credit and burdening him for years.
There is a Change.org petition started by the Mason family with the goal of private student loan forgiveness in the event of death and it had 2,700 signatures as of late this week. I definitely agree with it’s mission and I hope it passes.
“Student loans are the only debt that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy,” reads part of the petition. “This has created a financial crisis for our family, as well as for countless American families. Extreme situations like ours should qualify for either loan forgiveness by the lending institutions due to extreme financial hardship, or they should be able to be discharged in bankruptcy, just like every other type of debt.”
My husband and I have yet to decide how we will handle helping our kids with paying for college but I do know that if we are asked to co-sign on any loans, we will consider every possible scenario. This is a horrible lesson for this family to learn but hopefully, we will all learn something from what they are going through and maybe they can affect change about how these kinds of loans are handled in the event of death. Money is a tricky topic for families and even more complicated when it involves your own children, whom you want to help no matter what the circumstance.