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Majority of People Not Prepared to Deal with Debt After Death

[Thursday, January 9th, 2014]

Cosigning a loan for a loved one is such a common occurrence that many people don’t think through the consequences, according to a recent survey. Only 7% of those polled said they are financially prepared in case of the unexpected death of someone they have cosigned a loan for—or for their own untimely passing.

It’s not anyone’s favorite topic to think about, but Securian Financial Group asked 1,004 people about cosigning loans, borrowing money and the possibility of an unexpected death. Thirty-one percent of respondents said they hadn’t thought about what would happen if they died and left a cosigner on the hook for their debt, or if someone they cosigned for died and left them responsible for the loan.

Debt exceeds assets for many

Of the1,000 or so polled, 825 were borrowers or cosigners on someone else’s loan. And for just over half of them, their debts are more than their assets. The most common types of loans that people cosigned for were credit cards (39%), consumer loans (37%) and mortgages (34%).

Of those 825 borrowers and cosigners, only 7% have a plan in the event of their own death or the death of the person they cosigned for. But many people did say they plan to make a plan after completing the survey. The action steps included writing a will (55%), purchasing insurance (40%) and getting advice from a finance professional (31%).

Spouses could be liable even if they did not cosign

Common people to cosign for include spouses (46%), children (30%), parents (11%) and other family members (10%). In case the primary borrower dies, the cosigner would be responsible for the balance of the loan. However, in community property states, spouses are responsible for their deceased partner’s debt even if they did not cosign the loan.

The survey was conducted online in September 2013 and included responses from people of all ages. Securian Financial Group compiled a report from their findings: Debt: The inheritance no one wants.

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