How to Change a Car Title After a Death

Written by jackie lohrey
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The process for changing a car title after a death depends on the state you live in and state laws regarding probate and inheritance. In general, the person taking ownership of the car, whether a surviving spouse, or probate administrator, will need to provide the original vehicle title, fill out and submit the proper forms and pay any required fees. Depending on the state where the death occurred, a death certificate may or may not be necessary.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Vehicle title
  • Death certificate (optional)
  • Certified copy of probate order (optional)
  • Transfer of vehicle ownership form
  • Personal identification

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  1. 1

    Check the transfer of vehicle ownership requirements for your state (See Resources) to determine which forms you need to fill out and what documents you need to present to change the title. Most states have forms available for download under a heading such as "Titling and Registration." Be sure to read instructions and requirements carefully and ask questions if you do not understand. If the contact phone number for your state Department of Motor Vehicles is not on the home page of the website look in the "Contact Us" section.

  2. 2

    Fill out forms and collect required information. Avoid delays in processing your transfer of ownership application by making a list of items you need and checking them off as you complete each one. If your state requires notarising of any forms, check with your bank, as most banks offer this as a free service.

  3. 3

    Obtain a lien release if the vehicle has a loan on the title that is paid. Contact the loan company, and once they verify the loan is satisfied, they will send a lien release. Keep the lien release with the title, or if your state requires, send it in with other required documents.

  4. 4

    Take the transfer of vehicle ownership form, supporting documents, your information, and the correct fee to your local DMV office, or mail the information if your state gives you that option. When going in person, you may receive a new title immediately, or receive it in the mail within a few weeks.

Tips and warnings

  • If a loan on the car is still outstanding and the estate will not be paying it, as owner of the vehicle you will responsible for repayment of the loan.
  • You cannot dispose of the vehicle until the title is in your name. If you plan on selling or trading it in, wait until you receive title to the car.

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