Dear Dave,

My father co-signed for my niece's student loans, and recently he passed away. My mom didn't sign for the loans, but would she be held responsible now?

-Denise

Dear Denise,

I'm really sorry to hear about your dad. But no, your mom is not on the hook for the loans. Your dad's estate could be held responsible though.

When you die, what you own stands good for what you owe. So anything he owned-perhaps his and your mother's home-would have to stand good for it. This means that while your mom isn't liable, the student loan would have to be cleared as if it were a normal debt in order for your mom to keep, free and clear, any of the stuff your dad owned.

There's another possibility also. Federally insured student loans do not count against your estate when you die. If you pass away or become permanently disabled, the loan is forgiven. I believe that's true for co-signers as well, but make sure you check into the situation carefully. We're talking about the federal government, and they don't usually operate in the realm of common sense!

-Dave

Dave Ramsey is America's trusted voice on money and business. He's authored four New York Times best-selling books: Financial Peace, More Than Enough, The Total Money Makeover and EntreLeadership. The Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 6 million listeners each week on more than 500 radio stations. Follow Dave on Twitter at @DaveRamsey and on the web at daveramsey.com.