How Are Vehicles Transferred Upon a Person’s Death?

Death is inevitable. When someone dies, there are several ways the person’s belongings are distributed. While the requirements for transferring assets vary based on the assets, there are different ways to transfer a vehicle. Here are some legal processes that you can consider when transferring your car to a beneficiary after you die.

3 Ways to Transfer Your Vehicle Upon Death

1.   An Estate Administration

This is a standard but a tedious route that can be taken to acquire the vehicle upon a loved one’s death. Using an estate planning process, such as a will, to transfer your car is a legal process that can go on for months before ownership of the vehicle is finally acquired. When a car is transferred through a will, your beneficiaries are often required to wait for any creditor’s claim until the vehicle is handed over. Depending on the state in which you live, this can take several months up to a year. Talk to your estate planner before deciding to transfer your vehicles through a will, as there are better options available depending on your circumstances.


2. Joint Titles

Another way to transfer death upon vehicle is by joint title. This means that after the death of one individual, the other owner acquires the vehicle. You will still need to deal with a legal process with joint titles as you transfer the deceased’s half of the property.  For total title transfer, approval from court for the distribution process to the beneficiary might be acquired.

One way to avoid the legal process and allow the surviving owner to acquire the vehicle’s title through a joint title is to specify the title as a joint tenant with ownership rights. For this, you’ll need to include the specific initials “JWROS” on the title. For example, John Doe and Jane Doe, JWROS. These particular titles are required to ensure that the title is transferred immediately upon death. Without these initials the other half of the vehicle’s interest will be in the possession of the estate and required to follow the necessary processes.

3. TOD Beneficiary Vehicle Claim

This is another legal way through which you can transfer a vehicle upon death. Talk to an estate planner to make sure TOD (Transfer on Death) is included with the title of your car. Filing the Transfer on Death paperwork requires both the owner and the beneficiary to be present when drafting the paperwork.

For acquiring the vehicle through TOD, the beneficiary must have the following items:

  • Copy of owner’s death certificate
  • Government issue I.D card
  • Copy of the certificate of vehicle and the designation for TOD beneficiary

Without these items, transfer of the vehicle cannot take place. The death and title certificates and the driving license must be submitted to the proper channels along with the submission fee. However, the submission fee for these processes is not high.

Contact a Local Probate Attorney for More Information

If you need help with the estate planning process, Derryberry & Associates is here to provide you with the assistance you need. Contact us today to talk to an expert Lancaster probate attorney.


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