When a person dies and leaves no estate other than a vehicle, must a probate estate be opened?  The answer is simply no.  When there is a deceased vehicle owner and the estate is not probated, the surviving spouse, or, if no spouse, the next closest kin may transfer the vehicle into their name. This is done by presenting the title, the current registration or license plate number (if there is one), and a copy of the death certificate to a Secretary of State Branch Office. The surviving spouse or next closest kin must complete a Certification From the Heir to a Vehicle form. If the vehicle is being transferred to the surviving spouse or an immediate family member, the license plate may remain on the vehicle.

To transfer a deceased vehicle owner title when there is no surviving spouse, and there are several closest next-of-kin (e.g., multiple brothers or sisters), all share equal inheritance. Those with no interest in the vehicle may complete a certification statement to this effect.  If they wish, the next-of-kin may add a co-owner at time of titling.  If the co-owner is not an immediate family relative of the deceased, or is not the spouse of the closest next-of-kin who is inheriting the vehicle, the co-owner is liable for use tax.

If the estate is being probated, the Personal Representative appointed by the probate court can assign the deceased’s title.  If assigned to the deceased’s spouse or a family member of the deceased, that person presents the title and a copy of the personal representative’s Letter of Authority document at a Secretary of State Branch Office to title the vehicle in their name.  The license plate is inherited by the spouse or next closest kin and remains on the vehicle.

If the vehicle is jointly titled in your name and the deceased’s name with “Full Rights To Survivor” printed on it, then all that is needed to transfer the vehicle into your name is the title and a copy of the death certificate.  It does not matter if the deceased’s estate is being probated.

The Probate Pro can assist in transferring a deceased vehicle owner’s title to the next of kin.  Drive on by…