How to Transfer the Title of a Car in Probate

by Jennifer Williams Google
Ask the estate's personal representative if the probate court will allow you to take title to the car early.

Ask the estate's personal representative if the probate court will allow you to take title to the car early.

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If a friend or relative dies and leaves you a vehicle, you may not want to wait until the estate clears probate before taking possession. Probate can take some time, depending on the size of the estate and the number of cases on the probate court's docket. It may be possible in your jurisdiction to claim the vehicle left to you before the estate is settled if a few conditions are met.

Step 1

Read the will to confirm that you are the designated beneficiary of the vehicle, and determine whether you inherit the vehicle alone or jointly with anyone else. If you inherit jointly, talk to the other heir and decide together whether you will share ownership, or whether one of you will buy the other out,

Step 2

Ask the personal representative if there is an outstanding lien on the vehicle, or if the deceased owned the vehicle free and clear of any auto or title loans. If there is debt associated with the vehicle, the lien holder should be a creditor of the estate. That creditor must be satisfied and the debt paid before the vehicle can be transferred out of the estate.

Step 3

Inquire as to whether it is possible to take possession of the vehicle before the close of probate. Assets of the estate are always subject to creditor's claims, and all creditors, not just the vehicle lien holder, must be paid. The personal representative can tell you if the estate has the money to satisfy all creditor claims, or if any assets may have to be liquidated before creditors can be paid. If the estate has significant debt, the personal representative or the probate court will likely deny your request to take title early, just in case sale of the vehicle is necessary to help satisfy creditors. If estate liquidity is sufficient to satisfy all creditors, ask if the probate judge must agree to allow you to have the car early. Some jurisdictions require judicial consent in this situation.

Step 4

Execute the transfer of title section on the back of the existing car title in front of a notary. Sign and date the assignment as the person to whom the title is being transferred. The personal representative may sign in lieu of the deceased.

Step 5

Have the transfer notarized.

Step 6

Take the notarized title, your identification and a copy of the death certificate to your local Department of Motor Vehicles, present the documents and request a new title issued in your name.