What Happens to a Car When the Owner Dies? - EPGD Business Law (2022)

What Happens to a Car When the Owner Dies? - EPGD Business Law (1)

  • June 3, 2019
  • 2:42 pm

Does the Car Owner have a Will?

First, the car owner may leave a will. This means the car owner has died testate, and the will left by the car owner determines who owns the vehicle. Secondly, when a car owner does not leave a will after their passing, then they have passed intestate. This means a court will determine the legal owner of the vehicle.

A Deceased Person’s Car Before Probate (Testate).

If the car owner leaves a will after they have passed the court will approve the will, called a grant of probate, and determine an executor. The executor is responsible for distributing the property identified in the will, which will include the vehicle if listed in the will.

There are some instances when the will won’t need to be probated and the ownership will be transferred automatically once the car owner passes. For example, if the car owner owned the car jointly with another owner and designated the car has a “right to survivorship,” the vehicle will automatically transfer to the other owner. Additionally, if the car owner indicates the vehicle should be “payable upon death” to another person, the car will transfer automatically to another owner after the car owner’s death. A car owner may also form a revocable living trust. A revocable living trust allows assets to automatically transfer under the terms the car owner has listed in the trust agreement.

In both instances, the person claiming ownership of the vehicle must submit an application, found on the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles website, to the tax collector’s office. The person claiming ownership must file a certificate of title. If the will is being probated, the person claiming ownership of the will must have a certified copy of the will, and an affidavit stating the estate is not indebted. If the will is not being probated, the person claiming ownership only needs to present a sworn copy of the will, and an affidavit that the estate is not indebted.

Transferring Ownership of a Car When Someone Dies Without a Will (Intestate).

If the car owner passes away without a will, the laws of the State of Florida will decide who receives the title of the vehicle. The person claiming ownership of the car does not have to provide a copy of the will. Instead, the person claiming ownership of the vehicle must provide the application found on the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Website to the tax collector’s office and provide a certificate of title. Additionally, the person claiming ownership of the car needs to provide two affidavits. The first is an affidavit stating the estate is not indebted. The second is an affidavit stating that if there is a surviving spouse, or any surviving heirs, the parties have agreed to how the estate will be divided.

EPGD Business Law is located in beautiful Coral Gables, West Palm Beach and historic Washington D.C. Call us at (786) 837-6787, or contact us through the website to schedule a consultation.

*Disclaimer: this blog post is not intended to be legal advice. We highly recommend speaking to an attorney if you have any legal concerns. Contacting us through our website does not establish an attorney-client relationship.*

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What Happens to a Car When the Owner Dies? - EPGD Business Law (2)

Eric Gros-Dubois

Eric P. Gros-Dubois founded EPGD Business Law in 2013 and is the current head of the firm’s corporate, estate planning, and tax practice, and manages the firm’s Washington D.C. office. With a JD and MBA, and a specialization in finance, Eric is able to step back and view the legal world through a commercial lens while also acting as a trusted business advisor for his clients. He does his best to be solutions oriented, and tries to think like a business owner, not just a lawyer.

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Discussion

*The following comments are not intended to be treated as legal advice. The answer to your question is limited to the basic facts presented. Additional details may heavily alter our assessment and change the answer provided. For a more thorough review of your question please contact our office for a consultation.

22 Responses

  1. What if the car still has a balance and the owner died?Is his car considered paid off?

    Reply

    1. Hi Julita,

      If you’d like to speak about this further, please email office@epgdlaw.com to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.

  2. My brother passed suddenly and had a car (that was for) and my (also deceased sister’s stepdaughter) took it upon herself to GIVE it to my brother’s daughter.
    Thing is he never formally adopted her. She didn’t even have his last name.
    How can I put a claim on that car for (if and when) she tries to put the title in her name?

    Reply

    1. Hi Patricia,
      I am sorry for your loss. Please call our office or email us at office@epgdlaw.com to set up a consultation so that we can discuss your issue further.

  3. My dad left me his vehicle in his will. And went through probate court. Now what do I do. I live in Colorado he lived in Indiana

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    Reply

    1. Hi Jessica,
      I would love to get on a call with you to discuss the next steps. Please call our office to set up a consultation!

  4. My friends husband passed away with no will. The car was in her husband’s name only. Does the car automatically go to his wife or their child? They live in Mississippi.

    Reply

    1. Hello Kathy, the answer to your question is dependent on a few details. I would need to know whether your friend’s husband passed away as a Florida resident, where the car was purchased, and whether it was purchased by your friend and her husband as spouses. If they owned the car as husband and wife then the car will most likely pass automatically to your friend. If not, then a probate will need to be opened for this asset. If your friend’s husband lived in Mississippi full time when he passed then the probate will need to be opened there instead.

      *This is not intended to be treated as legal advice. The answer to your question is only based on the facts presented, additional details may heavily alter our assessment and change the answer provided. For a more thorough review of your question please contact our office for a consultation.

  5. my father past away with no will but leave hi car behind now his girl wants to give it to her brother

    Reply

  6. My father passed away and owns a new Jeep that is paid off! Can the person acting as the executer price the vehicle as they wish in order to sale to another family member, or do they have to stick with the appraisal price?

    Reply

  7. Hello my father n law left me a car on the will. Can you tell me the steps I need to take to get it legal to drive . Please

    Reply

    1. Hi Teri, please call our office at (786) 837-6787 to further discuss this with you in a complimentary consultation.

  8. My son died and left no wil i have the title to his motorcycle his dad has the it can he sell? Or fill for. Lost duplicate title?

    Reply

    1. Hi Dianna, please accept our sincerest condolences over the loss of your son. If you’d like to discuss this further, kindly call our office at (786) 837-6787 to schedule a complimentary consultation. We are at your convenience.

  9. My common law husband of 21 years passed away at age 52. 2 days before he died we bought a cheap car. He died before we got title into his name, and I am positive he wanted me to have the car, but I am not allowed to register a car in my name due to unpaid city taxes (the whole situation is incredibly complicated). I am completely at a loss as to how to get everything legal regarding this issue. Please help.

    Reply

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    1. Hi Maria, please accept our sincerest condolences over the loss of your husband. To discuss this further, kindly call our office at (786) 837-6787 to schedule a complimentary consultation. We are at your convenience.

  10. My husband died in July 2021 there was no will but I have the proof that I have paid for the car Nd the registration now the disk expired do I go to licensing Nd change the name I m confused

    Reply

  11. My mom died and left no will. I am the living heir. What do I need to do to get the rights to her van.

    Reply

  12. My dad died and we found out there is another car out there under his name. The person is paying for it because there is a lien on the car. It was my mom’s home healthcare worker. My dad both it for her but it’s under his name and there is no co signer. What are my options? The vehicle is finance by Nissan.

    Reply

  13. My husband jist passed leaving a van that we still owe on. The vehicle is in his name only. If U let the loan Co come and take the van, will it effect my credit at all??

    Reply

  14. Hi my friend died last month but I was left her car we both sign a paper and had it stamp last year that she leaves me the car what can I do the great niece wont let me get it its not in the will

    Reply

  15. She said I have to send for a death certificate of my friend knowing I cant do that im not family she doesn’t reply at all since she said that im hurt because that’s what we had done out of friendship

    Reply

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FAQs

What happens to ownership of a car when someone dies? ›

As a car cannot be registered to someone who is deceased, so you need to tell the DVLA if you want to keep it or transfer it to a friend or family member. To transfer ownership of the car, fill in section 2 of the V5C (section 6 if you have the old-style V5C, which were issued up to 15 April 2019).

Can you sell a deceased person's car before probate? ›

A motor vehicle is a chattel and you do not have to wait until a grant of probate or letters of administration have been issued to be able to transfer a car to another owner or to sell it.

How do you buy a car when someone dies? ›

Title Transfer

Give the executor the money for the vehicle. Take the title to the local Department of Motor Vehicles or the local tax assessor's office – confirm with proper procedures with DMV. Confirm if insurance coverage is required prior to obtaining the title in the seller's name.

Do you need to return a driving Licence when someone dies? ›

You'll need to return the driving licence, with a covering letter explaining the circumstances and your relationship to the deceased, to the DVA. If you can't find the driving licence, they'll require a letter stating the name, address and date of birth of the deceased, and your relationship to the person.

Does a car come under probate? ›

A motor vehicle is a chattel and you do not have to wait until a grant of probate or letters of administration have been issued to be able to transfer a car to another owner or to sell it.

Is a car still insured if the policyholder dies? ›

Car insurance

Most policies terminate on the death of the main policy holder, and this will leave you uninsured.

Can you insure a car you don't own? ›

Can I get temporary car insurance for a car I don't own? Yes, you can get temporary car insurance for someone else's car. You might need this if you're taking your car on holiday and want to share the driving with someone else. We'll help you compare cover for anything from an hour to 84 days.

How do you transfer a car title to another person? ›

What you should do
  1. The seller must complete the NCO form and submit it to their registering authority.
  2. The seller must hand over the registration certificate to the buyer.
  3. The buyer must complete the Application for registration and licencing of motor vehicle form (RLV) for submission.

Is a spouse responsible for car loan after death? ›

In most states, the estate and surviving auto loan co-signers are the ones held responsible for paying off the remaining auto loan balance. If there are no co-signers on the loan and the estate can't pay it off, a surviving spouse, relatives, or other beneficiaries won't be responsible for paying off the debt.

Do car loans have death benefits? ›

Car loans are not forgiven at death so, if your estate can't cover the debt, the person that inherits the vehicle needs to decide whether they want to keep it. If they do want to keep the car, the inheritor can take over the auto loan payments and maintain possession of it.

Who notifies the bank when someone dies? ›

Banks won't necessarily know that a customer has died, so it is important to notify the bank as soon as possible. Anyone can notify the bank but typically this responsibility would fall on the next of kin or the estate representatives.

What do you cancel when someone dies? ›

FINANCIAL ACCOUNTS
  • Bank (checking, savings, CDs)
  • Credit union.
  • Credit cards.
  • Mortgage (or landlord)
  • Car loan.
  • Retirement accounts.
  • PayPal.
  • BitCoin.

What happens if you don't register a death within 5 days? ›

Although a death should be registered within five days, registration can be delayed for another nine days if the registrar is told that a medical certificate has been issued. You can't get someone to register the death on your behalf. It is a criminal offence not to register a death within the specified time frames.

Is a car still insured if the policyholder dies? ›

Car insurance

Most policies terminate on the death of the main policy holder, and this will leave you uninsured.

Does a car have to go through probate in Florida? ›

If your loved one recently passed away with joint ownership with a husband or wife, then Florida probate is not required to transfer a car title in Florida after the owner dies.

Does a car have to go through probate in Ohio? ›

A Transfer on Death (TOD) is a legal document that can transfer your car without a will. This means that your car will not have to go through the probate court. Going through the probate court can cost your loved ones time and money after you are gone.

Do you pay inheritance tax on a car? ›

Depending on your circumstances, your classic could be subject to 40% inheritance tax, which is why it's important to ensure that you've considered what will happen to your prized possession after you pass away.

How do insurance companies know when someone dies? ›

Life insurance companies typically do not know when a policyholder dies until they are informed of his or her death, usually by the policy's beneficiary. Even if a policy is in a premium-paying stage and the payments stop, the insurance company has no reason to assume that the insured has died.

What happens when named insured dies? ›

Response 4: If the named insured is deceased, a resident of the household at the time of the named insured's death continues to be an insured as long as they remain a resident. You should talk with the carrier to see how they want to handle this. They might want to change coverage to a dwelling policy.

Why do you need probate if there is a will? ›

Probate or letters of administration will be needed so the personal representative can pass it whoever will inherit the share of the property, according to the will or the rules of intestacy. The property might have a mortgage.

How do you know if probate is necessary? ›

Sometimes it will be easy to determine – for instance, if the deceased person had a small amount of money in the bank and owned nothing else, probate is unlikely to be needed. But if the deceased owned a property in their sole name, or had multiple high value assets, probate will be required.

Do all wills have to be probated? ›

No, not all Wills go to Probate and in fact even if there is no Will, some Estates will still need to go through the Probate process.

Can anything be sold before probate? ›

Technically the answer to 'can you sell a house before probate' is yes, yes you can. Although you will need probate to exchange and complete, nothing is stopping you from listing your house on the market and accepting any offers, if you get them, before being given the Grant of Probate.

What happens to bank account when someone dies without a will? ›

If the deceased did not name a beneficiary or write a will, the probate court will name an executor to manage the distribution of the money after any debts are paid. This differs according to state law, but the money usually goes to the spouse or children.

How do you get around probate? ›

The Top Three Ways to Avoid Probate
  1. Write a Living Trust. The most straightforward way to avoid probate is simply to create a living trust. ...
  2. Name Beneficiaries on Your Retirement and Bank Accounts. ...
  3. Hold Property Jointly.
2 May 2022

How much can you inherit and not pay taxes? ›

What Is the Federal Inheritance Tax Rate? There is no federal inheritance tax—that is, a tax on the sum of assets an individual receives from a deceased person. However, a federal estate tax applies to estates larger than $11.7 million for 2021 and $12.06 million for 2022.

What is considered a large inheritance? ›

What Is Considered a Large Inheritance? There are varying sizes of inheritances, but a general rule of thumb is $100,000 or more is considered a large inheritance. Receiving such a substantial sum of money can potentially feel intimidating, particularly if you've never previously had to manage that kind of money.

Who pays the inheritance tax? ›

This is done by the person dealing with the estate (called the 'executor', if there's a will). Your beneficiaries (the people who inherit your estate) do not normally pay tax on things they inherit. They may have related taxes to pay, for example if they get rental income from a house left to them in a will.

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