How To Change A Car Title After A Loved One Dies


How to transfer a car title after death in order to sell the vehicle

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While you may want to hang onto some possessions when a loved one dies, a vehicle is usually something you'll want to sell (assuming you already have your own) but it can be a chore to transfer a car title deed after death. It can be even more stressful if you are still reeling from the loss, so this guide aims to help make the whole process a little less taxing, both mentally and emotionally.

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Last Will and Testament

It may be unpleasant to think about our untimely demise, but it is still a good idea to write up a will, even if it is as basic as leaving all your worldly possessions to a spouse or relative. This piece of paper can make all the difference when you want to figure out how to transfer the ownership of a car after death. However, it's not the only document needed to claim and sell a car. Here are all the steps you will need to take to complete the registration if you have the last will:

  • If the will is clearcut, you can probably avoid probate court, which can be time-consuming and costly. But transferring a car title after death without going through probate means scrounging up some additional paperwork. You may want to check with a local attorney to ensure you know exactly what is needed and get advice.
  • In most cases, you will need a certificate of the title along with an affidavit for a transfer without probate. Having a copy of the death certificate on hand won't hurt, either. You will likely need to fill out a Statement of Facts form, too, and supply an Odometer Disclosure Statement.
  • Naturally, there are always fees to be paid. At the very least, you will need to cover the transfer fee. When you fill out and submit the transfer claim to the DMV, it will make you aware of additional charges, such as registration fees or outstanding fines.
  • If there are outstanding payments on the vehicle, such as an unpaid car loan with a bank or other credit provider, they may have a claim on the vehicle, too. For this reason, you may need to obtain a hold-hard agreement, and you will need to take responsibility for the debt. This is true even if you just plan on driving a deceased person's vehicle, but even more so if you plan to sell it.
  • It is possible to bypass this final step if there is no lien on the car. In such an event, you can simply sign the back of the title with the addendum that you are the executor of the estate. The buyer then takes the title to the DMV and is issued a new title in their name. However, they will need to agree to take over the remaining balance of the payments.
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No Will? No Problem

Okay, there will be a few problems, but none that you can't overcome, so long as you understand your survivorship rights. If you owned the car jointly with your husband/wife then you simply need a copy of the death certificate and your ID to take full ownership.

Some forward-thinking car buyers may actually include a Transfer on Death clause in their title, which names a person to take ownership in the event of death, Once again you will need the death certificate, but also a letter from the court which clarifies that the owner died 'intestate' and that no probate is required for you to take ownership of the car.

Failing all this, or if the will was somehow lost, you will have to undergo probate. This requires that the living heirs agree to the distribution of the assets. If you're the only surviving heir, this is relatively painless, but if there are others and nobody feels amicable about who gets what, it can end up being a lengthy and expensive ordeal. For this reason, it is advised that everyone, especially parents, keep their wills up to date. The last thing a grieving family needs is the kids squabbling over an inheritance.

Keep in mind that, regardless of the situation, transferring a car title after death usually requires waiting for the grace period to pass. Apart from just being respectful, it also allows the new owner time to get their paperwork in order. The exact length of this period varies depending on local laws.

Selling a Deceased Person’s Car

Once you have the title deed in hand with your name on it, how to sell a car of a deceased person becomes a simple process. Make sure you have the correct medical records, the certificate of the title, and any necessary bank statements, then follow the tips and steps to selling a car suggested here. Be wary of car-selling scams. If you already have an idea of how the process works, here is a quick list of the documents needed for selling a car with a deceased owner:

  • Identification
  • Proof ownership
  • Vehicle registrations
  • Service history and receipts
  • Roadworthiness certificate
  • Settlement letter
  • Notification of change of ownership
  • Verification of sale
Inherited Car


What do I do if my husband/wife dies with the car in his/her name?

Depending on the circumstances, there are a few things you can do. If the car was jointly owned, you simply need to inform the DMV of the death of the other owner, and the title will be updated. Alternately, you may have been named in the Transfer on Death clause. In most cases, though, all you will need is a death certificate and your ID, and possibly your marriage certificate.

Can I sell a car of a deceased person if it has an unpaid loan?

Yes. Depending on the nature of the loan, you may have to settle it before changing the car title after death. However, many dealers are willing to buy vehicles with outstanding payments, which they then settle afterward before selling it again.

Can I drive a deceased person’s car?

Yes, you simply need to know how to transfer a car title to a family member, assuming you were related. If you are unsure, seek help from your local DMV or an attorney. If you are buying a deceased person's car, make sure the seller has done the paperwork correctly and is legally allowed to sell it to you.

Does car insurance end when you die?

Car insurance may be taken out for a single individual or as a package deal with multiple dependants. In the event of the former, it simply lapses, though you should probably inform the provider of the death. However, if someone else is named on the policy, they can switch the primary holder in the event of death. It's definitely worth asking your insurance consultant for some tips on how best to set up your policy to avoid confusion if the worst comes to pass.

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