A common job for an executor is to dispose of the deceased owner’s automobile or automobiles. How this is accomplished depends upon the answers to a few questions.

Question 1: how many cars did the deceased own?

Question 2: how much is each car worth?

Question 3: is the deceased survived by a spouse?

Question 4: if the deceased had no spouse, and is survived by children, how old are the children?

Question 5: if the deceased had no spouse, and is not survived by children, is there a last will being offered for probate?

Once we know the answers to the above questions we can begin to determine how title to the car(s) can be transferred. For example, if the deceased owned one car, and it is worth less than $25,000.00, the law (EPTL 5-3.1) vests title automatically in the surviving spouse. The Department of Motor Vehicles (“DMV”) form MV 349.1 titled, “AFFIDAVIT FOR TRANSFER OF MOTOR VEHICLE (Authorized by Section 5-3.1 of the Estates, Powers and Trusts Law)” can be used to transfer title to the surviving spouse so long as a death certificate is provided.

If this same decedent (above) instead was not survived by a spouse, but by a child or children under the age of 21 years, the same form, MV 349.1, can be used to transfer title to the car to the minor child or person for the benefit of the minor child (i.e., guardian).

If a decedent owned one car, is not survived by a wife or children under the age of 21, the car is worth less than $25,000, and there will be no last will offered for probate, then the DMV form 349 can be used by the “Next of Kin” to transfer title to the “Next of Kin.” The title to the car and a death certificate will also need to be provided.

If a decedent owned several cars or a car worth more than $25,000.00 then the Transfer of Vehicle Registered in Name of Deceased Person (MV-349) or an Affidavit for Transfer of Motor Vehicle (MV-349.1) to transfer the ownership form cannot be used. The executor or administrator of the estate must provide either the Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration along with the title which should be signed or executed in the capacity of the executor or administrator to the person receiving title to the car.

To be continued …

Aaron E. Futterman, CPA, Esq. is a partner in the law firm of with offices in Smithtown, NY and clients throughout Suffolk, Nassau, Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx, Richmond, New York, Westchester and Rockland Counties. He concentrates his practice to Elder Law, Medicaid Planning, Medicaid Applications, Estate Planning, Probate, Estate Taxes, and Estate Administration.