If you are retired, what is the best way for you to title your vehicle so that your surviving spouse and children do not have any problems following your death?
If you are in a first marriage, and your spouse is still alive, you would usually want to hold the title into both you and your spouse’s name. I recommend that you title your car with an “or” between your names on the car title (for example, “Joe Smith or Sue Smith.”) In this manner, either you or your spouse can sell the vehicle at a later date without both of you having to sign the paperwork. Following your death, your surviving spouse would have sole ownership of the vehicle without having to obtain an updated title.
What if you are in a second marriage? If it’s a long-standing second marriage, you would typically want your surviving spouse to inherit your car. You would simply follow the same procedure outlined above for a first marriage. But if you are in a recent second marriage and instead desire your vehicle to pass to your children, you would accomplish this either by a provision in your will or alternatively by adding your children’s names on the car title through a “TOD” designation (transfer on death). This TOD can be handled through the local Department of Motor Vehicles office for a small title transfer fee.
How should you handle your car title if you are a single person? If you want all of your children to inherit your car following your death, then all your children have to do is take the car title to the Department of Motor Vehicles following your death, and fill out an affidavit of inheritance. This would place the vehicle in all of the children’s name. This procedure assumes the children get along with each other, and that your children will cooperate in filling out the paperwork.
If you’re single, and you want just one of your children to inherit your car, then you should follow the transfer on death procedure explained above, or specifically, designate that in your estate plan.
In summary, the transfer of your car following your death usually does not require the involvement of lawyers or probate court. But it is helpful to your family for you to leave clear instructions, and fill out paperwork in a manner that avoids problems for your survivors.
Tiffany Tucker is an associate attorney at Farrar & Williams, PLLC and can be contacted at 501-525-4401 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By: Manda Bass