How Do I Transfer Vehicle Ownership of a Deceased Relative?

One common question executors may have to deal with is how to transfer a car title after the owner dies.

The way to transfer a vehicle after death can depend on several factors. These include whether the automobile was owned by one person or several individuals and whether any provision was made in a will for its transfer.

If the title to the vehicle has more than one name on it, then the surviving owner may inherit the vehicle by operation of law.

That person can change the title to put in their name only, without further intervention from the executor.

When the vehicle is titled in joint tenancy, and the owners are living, the signatures of all owners are necessary to transfer ownership. Joint tenancy is when the names of two or more owners listed on the title are joined with the word “OR,” “AND” or “AND/OR.” These words note the right of survivorship.

Yahoo Finance’s recent article, “What Happens If the Executor of My Will Dies?” explains that when the title is in the name of the deceased owner only, the title will have to be changed to whoever will assume ownership.

Suppose the motor vehicle is included in probate because there is no surviving joint owner or it hasn’t been transferred to a trust. In that case, a title change likely won’t be able to be completed until probate ends and ownership of the car is assigned to one of the decedent’s heirs.

There are three documents that you will typically need to transfer a vehicle title after death:

  • A copy of the owner’s death certificate
  • The original title; and
  • Probate court documents allowing the transfer.

Transferring vehicle ownership after someone passes away can vary from state to state. It’s a good idea to review the probate laws and contact the local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to see what’s required to complete the transfer.

Reference: Yahoo Finance (May 15, 2023) “What Happens If the Executor of My Will Dies?”

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