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Many people often wonder how to transfer car ownership after the death of a loved one. While the family may have certain plans or expectations of distributing the car, it is best to follow the right process to transfer the vehicle to another person.

There could be challenges and difficulties in handling the situation among family members. However, the family can follow various steps and may engage an estate planning attorney to make the process smooth. Read on to learn more about transferring a car title after the death of a loved one.

Transferring Ownership of a Vehicle When the Owner Is Deceased

The deceased’s family can decide to keep the vehicle or sell or gift it. However, the ownership must be transferred to a new owner before this happens. You will have to present supporting documents to show that the car owner died.

  • If the car was co-owned– If the car is jointly owned, the surviving person will automatically become the car owner. The person has to change the title to reflect their details. They will only need to present a copy of the deceased’s death certificate and get a new title.
  • If the car was an individual property– You can change the title of the vehicle even if the deceased was the sole owner of the vehicle. The person who wants the title transfer will need to present the death certificate and fill out the forms before the transfer happens, including a small estate affidavit.
  • If the vehicle is part of the probated estate– A car under a probated estate cannot be transferred until letters of office are issued. The Executor of Estate ensures that the transfer is complete and the property is distributed according to the will, if any.
  • When probate isn’t necessary- You can transfer the car without probate under certain circumstances, meaning there is no need to go through the court. But you will need to take the title of the car and the death certificate and small estate affidavit to the Title Office to complete the process.

Handling probated estate can be challenging, tiring, and time-consuming if you lack legal knowledge. In this case, it’d be essential to work with an experienced estate planning attorney such as Johnston Tomei Lenczycki & Goldberg, LLC to guide and advise you on the legal process.

Documents Required for Title Transfer

You will be required to present various documents before the transfer of car ownership. In this case, you may want to work with an experienced estate planning attorney to guide you on the correct documents to present. This is vital whether the car is only owned by the deceased or co-owned. Below are the documents you will need to present to the Executor.

  • The Certificate of the Title
  • The death certificate of the deceased
  • The odometer disclosure statement
  • Letters of office or a small estate affidavit.

A small estate affidavit is a useful alternative to probabte, but it is only available in limited circumstances. Remember, you will also need to pay a transfer fee, and once you have all the required documentation, you will need to take them to your local Title Office to finalize the transfer.

What Happens if the Title of the Deceased is Lost?

It may worry you when you notice that you can’t find the title of the car. But the good news is that you can still transfer car ownership by presenting the death certificate and proof of your relationship with the deceased to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Only the deceased’s beneficiary or next of kin can do this.

How Long Does Vehicle Transfer Ownership Take After Someone Dies?

Vehicle ownership transfer isn’t a complicated task, but it may take more time if the vehicle is part of the probated estate. The probate process must be initiated before the transfer happens. This process can begin after the car owner dies, and the average time can be six months or more.

Protect Your Family and Safeguard Your Legacy

The best thing you can do for your family is to ensure there is peace when you are gone. This is even more important if you have properties that may need to be distributed among your family members, including your vehicles. Creating a will and other estate documents can make the process seamless. What to learn more about creating a will and transferring car ownership? Lake County, Illinois law firm, Johnston Tomei Lenczycki & Goldberg, LLC, can help. Contact us for a free consultation.

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