Grieving mother seeks help over daughter's debt


Frustrated, Maryanne Padilla got in touch with me for some answers. She lost her daughter in a tragic car accident last Christmas. Her daughter was just 24 years old at the time and a recent college grad.

"Emerald was a champion for anyone in need," said Maryanne, who is so proud of what her daughter, Emerald Padilla, accomplished.

"She was an advocate for change, helping those less fortunate," said Maryanne.

Just months after her daughter's death, Maryanne started getting calls for her daughter. They were calls that just delayed the healing process.

"My husband and I, my family and I, we were just really trying to deal with our grief and the devastating loss of a child.

"As time went on, we started to start the healing process and deal with the legal matters," said Maryanne.

Part of those legal matters was some unpaid debts, like a student loan through CFNC and a hospital bill. Maryanne said both were forgiven when Emerald passed. However, one unpaid debt caught Maryanne off guard.

"I started to receive phone calls here at our home asking to speak to Emerald," said Maryanne.

It was a call from Sallie Mae about more than $14,000 worth of unpaid student loans.

"I said Emerald, unfortunately we lost emerald on December 27, 2011, and I let them know what happened and I said I have some of her things and I'd like to know about how does it work with debt forgiveness in the event of a death," said Maryanne. "And the first person told me that there was no such thing through Sallie Mae. They didn't have that option."

Maryanne said she was told the loan was a private loan, one that she co-signed on, so the debt would not be forgiven.  Maryanne said the phone calls from Sallie Mae continued for Emerald. Frustrated, Maryanne wrote letters to executives at Sallie Mae.

"Just bringing light to a terrible situation," said Maryanne. "When a parent loses a child, obviously that's not something that is ever even considered when you apply for a loan. When you sign your name on that paper for your child to further their education, never in your mind do you think that they won't be here to fulfill that education."

When she didn't hear back, she reached out to me and I brought this to the attention of Sallie Mae.  In a statement, they said, "Our hearts go out to Mrs. Padilla as she and her family deal with the tragic loss of her daughter. After careful review of the account, the decision has been made to forgive the remaining balance of the Padilla family's loan."

Maryanne is relieved, and hopes this does not happen to any other grieving parent.

"I want to absolutely see a change. I feel like although I've been given what I asked for, and I asked for them to discharge their loan and they did that," said Maryanne. "I want to see that change because there may be another mother or another family that's dealing with what we've dealt with that may not have the resources."

A rep for Sallie Mae said it is their policy to review all cases when a student passes away, and as soon as they become aware of the death of a student borrower, normally activity ceases and a specialist contacts the family, and they work with the family on a case by case basis.

The rep added, while Emerald died in December, their records showed they didn't not learn about her passing until recently.  But once they did learn about it, within one day, a specialist reached out to Maryanne to provide assistance and processed the loan waiver.

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