What happens to a car title when the owner dies? It’s a common question for many individuals who aren’t sure what to do with their deceased loved one’s car. Almost every state has a process to transfer the title from a deceased owner. While all states are different, there are general similarities that can help you get started on your deceased owner title transfer.
Title transfer with survivorship or will
Before proceeding with the title transfer from the deceased owner, you must first check if the title has survivorship. If the title has survivorship, then the title is automatically transferred into the survivor’s name. If there is no survivorship, will the estate be probated? Meaning, has the deceased owner left a will that will go through the court system for the vehicle? If the answer is yes to either of these questions, the transfer process may be more streamlined and defined in the official documents or will.
If there is no survivorship and there is no will or probate needed, then you will have to seek permission from all other legal heirs (other family members) before transferring ownership of any property into your name.
Title transfer without survivorship or will
In many cases, the vehicle does not have survivorship and the estate will not be probated. In this case, most states have a process to obtain a title from a deceased owner. To apply for a new title from a deceased owner, you’ll typically need the following items:
- Your state’s motor vehicle title application
- Notarized inheritance affidavit
- Odometer disclosure
- Bill of sale
- Lien release
- Death certificate
Notarized inheritance affidavit
The inheritance affidavit is a document needed when transferring ownership of a vehicle from a deceased owner. This document outlines the ownership of the vehicle as assigned by all of the surviving heirs of the property/vehicle. In order to transfer ownership, all heirs must sign this document and it must be notarized.
If the vehicle previously had a lien, you will need to obtain a vehicle lien release prior to transferring the title.
Not all states require the death certificate to be included in the application for title. However, be sure to check your state’s requirements prior to submitting your application.
State title application
Each state has a different application for title transfers. They can be found online or at your local Department of Motor Vehicles office. Before you begin, check with your state’s department to make sure you have all the right paperwork because there may be additional requirements in your state.
Upon submission of the state title application for deceased owner transfer, make sure to include the appropriate title fees designated by your state.
The odometer disclosure provides a true and accurate statement of mileage at the time of sale. Some states allow for this to be disclosed on the bill of sale or the title application, although some states have a completely separate Odometer Disclosure process.
The DMV title transfer process can be confusing and tedious, especially when you’re also dealing with the loss of a loved one. Remember as you are caring for your deceased loved one’s property you also remember to care for yourself. If there is an estate or survivorship, consider consulting or hiring a lawyer to assist you in this process. We always recommend getting good legal advice when transferring a title from a deceased owner, the DMV cannot provide legal advice.