Vehicle Ownership After Death
Vehicles are considered part of an estate when a person passes. What happens to ownership of the vehicles after death is determined via will, titles, probate laws and whether there are any liens on the vehicle.
Joint Tenants with Right of Survivorship
If the vehicle title has a joint owner or verbiage on the title includes “joint tenants with right of survivorship” then that owner is entitled to the vehicle and assumes all debts remaining on that vehicle. The remaining tenant claims ownership by presenting a copy of the death certificate and a new title request to the vehicle registration office.
If There is a Will
If a beneficiary of a vehicle is listed in the will, then some states will allow transfer of ownership by filing an affidavit, avoiding probate. The new owner assumes all costs associated with the transfer of ownership, including any remaining debts.
Vehicles & Probate
If there isn’t a will, then intestacy applies, which designates ownership of the vehicle to a spouse, child, parent or other family member. Some states require all property of the deceased go through probate, including the vehicle, to satisfy any remaining debts. Other states allow bypassing the probate process by writing an affidavit to transfer ownership to a beneficiary.
Debt & Registration
Regardless of how or when transfer of vehicle ownership is done, it’s important to keep payments current and to register the title in the new owner’s name. If the family intends to keep the vehicle and assume the debt, it is important to communicate with the lender about the death and how to proceed moving forward. Other options are to return the car or sell it at auction, and apply the proceeds against what’s owed.
Other Things to Know
In some cases, Credit Life Disability Insurance is obtained at the time of vehicle purchase, which takes care of outstanding balances. This is particularly beneficial to know before assuming debt or selling the car to pay off debt.
Keep Everything Straight
Create a My Life & Wishes account and eliminate the guesswork for loved ones. Secure your vehicle title, will, loan and insurance information so the only thing your family needs to take care of is your memory.
"Being in the financial planning industry for over 35 years and focusing on end of life planning, we’ve become accustomed to seeing first-hand what families go through after the death of a loved one. Many times, there is added pain and frustration because they just don’t know what to do." Michelle Braddock, Co-Founder, My Life and Wishes Inc.
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