How to Transfer the Car Title of a Deceased Person

After a person passes away, it is often a challenge for loved ones to figure out what happens next. In addition to the emotional and mental distress of losing someone, there are added challenges when it comes to allocating all of the deceased person’s belongings. Whether you are an executor or a relative, you may find yourself in need of assistance when it comes to things like last wills and testaments, medical records, or titles. Today, we’ll cover one such topic – how to transfer the car title of a deceased person, which is necessary if you want to keep the vehicle as the beneficiary, sell the vehicle to someone else, or simply gift it to a family member. To transfer the car title of a deceased person, you must have the proper authority as a joint-owner of the vehicle, a beneficiary, or a surviving spouse.

Follow these steps to transfer the car title of a deceased person:

First, find out if the vehicle is part of a probated estate.

Once a vehicle owner has passed away, the process for transferring the car title of the deceased person varies depending on whether the vehicle title was in the individual’s name as a decedent or whether it was in a joint ownership. If the title was only in the decedent’s name, you’ll need to determine if the estate is being probated.

What’s a probated estate?

Probate is a legal process that involves administering the estate of the individual who has passed away. It typically happens when there is no living spouse or beneficiary listed on the will. A probate proves that the last will and testament is legitimate, checking out the deceased person’s assets and property. Then, the Probate Court determines how to proceed with the person’s belongings. During this process, the deceased individual’s property will be distributed based on the deceased individual’s will.

If the vehicle is part of a probated estate, follow these steps to transfer the car title of a deceased person:

1: Contact Probate Court and attorney.

A car title cannot be transferred until the probate is completed, so the executor or administrator of the deceased should contact Probate Court or an attorney as soon as possible to receive further instruction. Depending on the situation and the circumstances, getting the title transferred can be a complicated process. Because every situation is different, it helps to have someone who understands the legal process working in your favor. Once the probate is completed, the heir will receive the vehicle, or the executor can opt to sell it if he or she was the one given the vehicle.

2: Gather the required documents to transfer the car title of a deceased person.

While the documents needed does vary slightly from one state to the next, you need to have all of the following in order to transfer the title in most states: Order from Probate Court to transfer the vehicle, certificate of the title, odometer disclosure statement, death certificate, and transfer fee.

3: Visit the Title Office.

If you are the beneficiary of the vehicle or the administrator of the deceased person’s estate, you can visit the Title Office with the above documents to initiate the title transfer.

If the vehicle is not part of a probated estate, follow these steps to transfer the car title of a deceased person:

1: Check your state’s laws.

The process of transferring the title of a vehicle without a probate varies depending on what state you live in. Most states require the deceased individual’s property not to exceed a certain amount and it to be a certain amount of time since the person has passed away before the transfer of the title can be initiated.

2: Gather the required documents.

In many states, the Department of Motor Vehicles makes it fairly easy to transfer the car title of a deceased person when there is no probate involved. If you are the administrator, joint-owner, spouse, or beneficiary, you may only need to take the death certificate and the title of the car to your Title Office and they will retitle it – no court order or attorneys required.

Other Considerations When You Transfer the Car Title of a Deceased Person

If you are looking to sell the vehicle after the title has been transferred, they may be additional transfer fees depending on where you live. There may additional registration fees depending on what the status of the vehicle is. All of these fees will be determined and relayed to you after you submit your application to your local DMV. Furthermore, in the event that the vehicle was not registered by the deceased, the new owner will be held responsible for paying any registration fees or penalties.


To learn more about handling the legalities of a deceased family member, here’s a look at how to obtain medical records of someone who has passed away.

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