Change of Ownership: How to Transfer a Vehicle Without Probate

April 5, 2012

When a car owner dies, change of ownership is usually handled through probate, which can take months. Learn how to transfer a vehicle without probate.

The change of ownership of a vehicle can be a difficult process. This is especially true when transferring a vehicle's ownership for an inheritance. Typically, all of a deceased person's properties are distributed under a valid will in a process called probate.

Unfortunately, probate is a long and drawn-out process that can last from several months up to a year, and it usually involves heavy court and attorney expenses. For these reasons, many heirs try to avoid probate by various methods. However, a motor vehicle change ownership without probate involves specific requirements and procedures that should be met and followed. These are mostly due to the special nature of the ownership of a motor vehicle. Of course, the specific laws and requirements regarding the change of ownership of a vehicle without probate may differ slightly from state to state.

This article will try to cover the general process and requirements as they may exist in most states.

Required Documents and Fees

  • Certificate of Title
  • Affidavit for Transfer without Probate
  • Statement of Facts
  • Odometer Disclosure Statement
  • Transfer fee

If the heir plans to sell the vehicle, an additional transfer fee may be required. The buyer will thus need the above required documents, the second transfer fee and a Bill of Sale from the heir to the buyer.

Additionally, other registration fees may apply, depending on the vehicle's status. These fees will be determined when you submit your application to the DMV. Additionally, if the vehicle is not registered at the time of the transfer, the person receiving ownership of the vehicle may be held responsible for any due registration fees and penalties.

Grace Period before Transfer Can Be Made

Typically, there is a grace period after the death of the owner before which a change of ownership without probate cannot be made. However, if the vehicle's registration is set to expire within that grace period, renewal fees will have to be paid. Otherwise, the new owner may be faced with late penalties after the change of ownership has been processed.

While the regular change of ownership of a vehicle due to sale or a gift can be a complicated process. Doing so for an inheritance without probate can be just as difficult, if not more so. However, being aware of all the various requirements, processes and rules involved will help you to do this with as few hitches as possible. Just keep in mind the specific laws may differ depending on the state you conduct the change of ownership in.

How to Complete a DMV Title Transfer

Completing a DMV title transfer can be a bad experience if you do not have all of your paperwork completed properly or if you accidentally make a mistake while completing paperwork. Whether you live in California, New York or any other state, there are some important steps that must be taken to properly transfer a vehicle title at the DMV. This guide will help you with your title transfer whether you are buying from a dealership, private party or transferring a title within the family.

Inspect the Title

Before filling out a title for transfer, inspect it carefully. Make sure that the VIN number, make and model match the vehicle. Ensure that there is no lien on the vehicle, as this will prevent the title from being transferred. If the title is missing or you only have a memorandum copy, contact your local department of motor vehicles immediately to request a duplicate.

Fill out the Title

If you are selling the vehicle in a private party transaction, you must fill out the seller's information section on the title. This will include an odometer statement that acknowledges the mileage on the vehicle at the time of sale. Not all vehicles require an odometer statement, but your title should state whether or not one is required. Fill out your address, the cash selling price of the vehicle and any other necessary information before signing and dating the title. Next, have the buyer fill out his or her name, address and driver's license information. They should also sign and date the title.

Visit a DMV Office

The next step is to visit your local DMV office. Both the buyer and seller should visit the office together, as this can help prevent complications in paperwork and it will also keep the buyer from driving the vehicle without transferring the title. While at the department of motor vehicles office, there are multiple things that must be taken care of. Chief among them is transferring the title. In order to complete a title transfer, the buyer must file and pay for an application for vehicle title and pay sales tax on the cash selling price of the vehicle.

If the vehicle is being sold from one close family member to another, the transaction may be sales tax exempt. Both the buyer and seller may be required to present their driver's licenses or explain their relationship in order to waive the sales tax. After applying for a new title, the buyer must register the vehicle with the DMV to make it roadworthy. The vehicle must have insurance that meets the state minimums in order to register the vehicle. Once the vehicle is registered, a license plate may be issued.

The buyer and seller visiting the DMV together can offer great peace of mind. The seller will know that the title is transferred, holding the selling party harmless from any liability, and the buyer will be comfortable knowing that the title is transferred and the vehicle is registered for use on the road. In you have any specific questions regarding a DMV vehicle title transfer, contact your local DMV.

How to Transfer a Vehicle as a Gift

Completing a change of ownership as a gift is similar to transferring the title at a local department of motor vehicles office. A DMV title transfer can be a very quick experience as long as you have all required documentation in order before visiting the office. While this guide discusses general requirements for vehicle gift title transfers in the United States, contact your local department of motor vehicles if you have any specific questions.

Check the Title

Before signing the title over as a gift, make sure that you have the original title and that it does not show any liens or secured interest. If you do not have the original, contact your local department of motor vehicles office to request a duplicate. If the title shows a lien that is paid off or you have only the memorandum title, contact your finance company and arrange to have a lien termination letter sent to your address. If the lien is not paid off, you will need to contact your finance company and arrange a payoff.

Fill Out the Title

Even though you are transferring a vehicle gift in a no-cash transaction, the title information must be filled out completely. The family member who is selling or giving away the vehicle must fill out the seller information section on the title. This section includes an odometer statement, certification of mileage and driver's license information. The seller must sign and date the title and, in some jurisdictions, the title must be notarized. If notarization is required, do not sign the title until both parties are in front of a notary. The family member who is receiving the vehicle gift must also fill out part of the title. The buyer's information section requires the new owner to write their name, address and driver's license information. Again, like the seller's section, this will also require a signature and date and, potentially, notarization.

Visit a DMV Office

After both parties have signed off on the title and it has been notarized if necessary, you should visit a local DMV office together. This will allow you to transfer the title, register the vehicle and get license plates. Visiting the office together will also keep the new owner from driving the vehicle before transferring the title. This can provide peace of mind for both buyer and seller. After paying for an application for vehicle title and getting a temporary title, the vehicle can be registered. Sales tax will not be due, as the vehicle is a gift. In most states, the new owner is required to show proof of insurance before the vehicle may be registered. After paying for the registration, plates may be issued for another fee.

After completing all of these steps, the gift vehicle transaction is over. The new owner can drive the vehicle without restrictions. Remember, if you have any specific questions about transferring a vehicle as a gift, contact your local department of motor vehicles for assistance.

Related Questions and Answers

Where Can I Download a Vehicle Change of Ownership Form?

Whenever you transfer ownership of a vehicle, you need to file a vehicle change of ownership form with the Department of Motor Vehicles in your state. This form transfers ownership of the car from you to the new owner and releases liability for the vehicle as of the date of transfer on the form. There are a number of sites from which you can download generic change of ownership forms. Most states will also have state specific forms on their motor vehicles department websites available for download. Be advised that some states call this form a title transfer form.

Can I Complete a Vehicle Change of Ownership Online?

With today's busy lifestyles, many people are wondering if they can perform a change of ownership online. There are some states which allow third party vendors to participate in the change of ownership and registration process. Other states require you to deal with the state directly. Fortunately, many states have a system for filling out and submitting the change of ownership forms online. To see if your state has this type of system implemented, you should visit the website of the motor vehicles department for your site. If you live in California, you can visit the starting page here.

Is There an Added Vehicle Gift Tax when Giving Away a Car?

Most states don't charge a vehicle gift tax when you gift a person with a car. There are, however, special forms that must be filled out by both parties that certify the car was given as a gift. The motor vehicles department will determine the value of the vehicle and set the registration fee in accordance with the vehicle value. However, if the value of the vehicle is over $11,000, the Internal Revenue Service will charge the gift giver a tax and require the filing of IRS Form 709. A vehicle that is given as a gift must have a valid smog check certification in most states in order to be registered.

Are there Any Fees when Gifting a Vehicle?

You're thinking of gifting a vehicle to a friend or loved one. You need to know what sort of fees will be involved. Most states will require that the vehicle have a current smog check certificate prior to registration. There is no tax to be paid for gifting, unless the vehicle is worth more than $11,000. When the new owner goes to the motor vehicles department to register the vehicle, the value of the vehicle will be determined and registration fees will be set accordingly. If the new owner wishes special plates, the fee for these will also be assessed at this time.

Is there a Fee for Getting a Car Certificate of Title?

A car certificate of title is a document that certifies ownership of a particular vehicle. This document is usually issued by a title company or as a written opinion of an attorney. Some states call this a pink slip or just the vehicle's title. A clean title will be required in order for the vehicle to be able to be sold. If there is a lien on the vehicle, the lien company (holder of a loan for purchase of the vehicle) will have to be notified and certify that the vehicle can be sold. Every state charges for a title. Title companies will often charge up to $50 for a certificate of title.

What Is a Certificate of Title?

You want to know 'what is a certificate of title?'. Normally, this is a document issued by a title company or written out by an attorney that certifies legal ownership of a particular piece of property. In this case a car. There are some states that are called "title states". In these states, the owner of a car has two documents that prove ownership of a car. One is the vehicle registration document and is carried with the vehicle and must be shown to officers of the law upon request. The other is the title. This document is usually kept in a safe place and only taken out when the vehicle is sold. In non-title states, prior to selling a car, the owner must obtain a certificate of title to ensure they have the legal right to sell the car.

Where Can I Get an Odometer Disclosure Form?

An odometer disclosure form is a document that is used to inform the motor vehicles department and a new buyer of the actual mileage as recorded by the odometer at the time of sale of the vehicle. Many states have this form incorporated on the back of their titles and they are filled out when the release of liability document on the back of the title is filled out and signed by the seller. However, there are places online where you can download a generic odometer disclosure form. One of these sites is here.

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