Typically, the process of transferring title to a car involves the transferor and transferee (i.e. the seller and the buyer) signing the title and then submitting the signed title and other necessary forms to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV). However, if the owner of a car has passed away, this is not an option. Fortunately, the Florida Statutes establish specific procedures for transferring title to a car after death.
Transferring Title to a Vehicle After the Owner’s Death in Florida
The provisions for transferring title to a vehicle after the owner’s death appear in Section 319.28 of the Florida Statutes. In pertinent part, the law states:
“In the event of the transfer of ownership of a motor vehicle . . . by operation of law as upon inheritance, devise or bequest . . . and upon the surrender of the prior certificate of title or, when that is not possible, presentation of satisfactory proof to the department of ownership and right of possession to such motor vehicle . . . and upon payment of the fee prescribed by law and presentation of an application for a certificate of title, the department may issue to the applicant a certificate of title thereto.”
Basically, this is a long-winded way of saying that when someone provides for the transfer of ownership of a vehicle in his or her will (or dies without a will), a signature on the title is not required. The individual to whom the vehicle is transferred can obtain a new certificate of title by filing the old certificate and an application for certificate of title with the FLHSMV.
The law also includes specific provisions for situations in which the current owner dies intestate (without a will) and testate (with a will). In situations in which the current owner does not leave a will, the law states:
“When the application for a certificate of title is made by an heir of a previous owner who died intestate, it shall not be necessary to accompany the application with an order of a probate court if the applicant files with the department an affidavit that the estate is not indebted and the surviving spouse, if any, and the heirs, if any, have amicably agreed among themselves upon a division of the estate.”
If the current owner leaves a will, the statute includes the following additional requirement:
“If the previous owner died testate, the application shall be accompanied by a certified copy of the will, if probated, and an affidavit that the estate is solvent with sufficient assets to pay all just claims or, if the will is not being probated, by a sworn copy of the will and an affidavit that the estate is not indebted.”
While the Florida Statutes include specific provisions for transferring title to a car after the owner’s death, there are still some complicated issues involved, and mistakes can lead to disputes among family owners who believe that they are entitled to a portion of their loved one’s estate. As a result, while you can file the necessary paperwork with the FLHSMV on your own, we still recommend that you seek advice from an experienced estate administration attorney.
Dealing with Other Issues During the Estate Administration Process
After a loved one’s death, transferring title to his or her vehicles is just one of the numerous steps involved in the estate administration process. Transferring title to real estate, distributing non-titled assets, providing for the care of pets, and dealing with creditors are all parts of the process as well—and they are all subject to specific rules and requirements under Florida law. If you are coping with the loss of a loved one and need to know more about estate or trust administration in Florida, we encourage you to contact us for a confidential consultation.
Schedule a Confidential Consultation with Florida Estate and Trust Administration Attorney Mark F. Moss
Do you have questions about transferring title to a loved one’s vehicles or other assets? If so, Florida estate and trust administration attorney Mark F. Moss can help. To schedule an appointment at the Law Offices of Mark F. Moss, PLLC, at your convenience, call us at 904-329-7242 or contact us online today.