If someone has died and there is a vehicle, it will be necessary to transfer the title to the proper person. The manner in which this is done depends on a number of factors.
- Was the vehicle in joint name with survivorship rights?
- Is there, or will there be, a probate estate? If no probate estate, then who are the next of kin?
Joint Ownership: Transfer of a Vehicle
If the vehicle is jointly titled in a person’s name and the deceased’s name with “full rights to survivor” printed on the title, then all that is needed to transfer the vehicle into the survivor’s name is to produce the title and a copy of the death certificate to a Michigan Secretary of State Branch Office. It is irrelevant if the deceased’s estate is being probated.
No Probate Estate: Transfer of a Vehicle
When a vehicle owner dies and the estate is not probated, the surviving spouse, or, if no spouse, the next closest kin may transfer the vehicle into their name through a specific process with the Secretary of State. MCL 257.236 is the Michigan statute that governs the process.
If an owner of 1 or more vehicles, which vehicles do not have a total value of more than $60,000.00, dies and the owner does not leave other property that requires issuance of probate letters of authority, the owner’s surviving spouse, or an heir of the owner in the order specified in the probate code, may apply for a title, after furnishing the Secretary of State with proper proof of the death of the registered owner, attaching to the proof a certification setting forth the fact that the applicant is the surviving spouse or an heir. This entire procedure is done at a Secretary of State office and not the probate court.
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 will 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.
If there is no surviving spouse, and there are several closest next-of-kin (e.g., multiple brothers or sisters) each share equally. Those with no interest in the vehicle must complete a Certification waiving or disclaiming their interest in the vehicle.
Probate Estate: Transfer of a Vehicle
If the estate is being probated, the Personal Representative appointed by probate court has the legal authority to convey or assign the deceased’s title (unless specifically restricted). 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 can remain on the vehicle.