Post updated on Aug 31, 2020 by Wayne R. Carrabus
A common task following the death of a person is the disposal of an automobile or automobiles owned by the decedent by an executor, spouse or other person involved in the administration of the decedent’s estate. How this is accomplished depends upon the answers to the following questions:
Question 1: How many cars did the decedent own?
Question 2: How much is each car worth?
Question 3: Is the decedent survived by a spouse?
Question 4: If the decedent had no spouse, and is survived by children, how old are the children?
Question 5: If the decedent had no spouse, and is not survived by children, is there a Last Will & Testament 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 decedent 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 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 worth less than $25,000 and the spouse or guardian of a child wishes to transfer ownership to another person, this can be accomplished by using form MV 349.1 to transfer title to that person. 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 neither the Transfer of Vehicle Registered in Name of Deceased Person (MV-349) nor an Affidavit for Transfer of Motor Vehicle (MV-349.1) can be used to transfer the ownership. 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.
Wayne R. Carrabus, CPA, Esq. is an associate attorney in the law firm. The law firm has offices in Smithtown, Bay Shore and Garden City, New York, and has clients throughout Suffolk, Nassau, Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx, Richmond, New York, Westchester and Rockland Counties. The law firm concentrates its practice in the areas of Elder Law, Medicaid Planning, Medicaid Applications, Estate Planning, Probate, Estate Taxes, and Estate Administration.