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How to get a vehicle lien release from closed lender

In many instances, the reason why there is difficulty obtaining a lien release for a motor vehicle is that the lender is either out of business or cannot be contacted. A lender out of business or a lien holder that apparently is not operating could seem to be a pretty big obstacle to getting a title. We’re going to walk you through how we perform that project within our company and you could do the same thing. It’s a pretty straightforward process.

Researching the Lender
So the first thing we do is research that particular lender. Even if they’ve gone out of business or ceased operations, a financial institution or lender typically does not close or close down, even though outwardly it may appear they’re not operating or their phone numbers disconnected. Even if their corporation has ended, there is usually a successor entity or corporation or a registered agent, either one of which can execute a lien release.

Example of Ecsta Bank
Here’s an example we’ll walk through of finding the correct party who’s authorized to sign a lien release for a long-since-paid-off loan. Here’s a bank we pulled up. Here’s an example of the document that our investigative researchers create when we’re getting a lien release for a closed bank. This bank is called Ecsta Bank, and we even have their old logo. If you notice, the first line says inactive as of 1996. That was a long time ago, and just to jump ahead, we’ll show you where we gather this information and where you can research this so you can do this on your own. The information provided will show you what happened and why they’re no longer active.

Mergers and Successors
Usually, this is due to a merger. The reason it says without assistance is that the federal government, in some cases, will assist a bank or a financial institution to merge or to fold or to become associated with another financial institution. They do that because the federal government guarantees most banks through the FDIC or some other guarantor program. So it’s important to note whether it’s with or without assistance. We’ll get to that in a little bit of time. You’ll find that the successor bank initially was North Fork Bank, and it’ll give the headquarters and the street address. But if this bank was inactive as of 1996, it’s unlikely that the bank or any successor is located at this address 30 some odd years later.

Detailed Bank History
Then there’ll be some basic information about the bank, such as when it was established, FDIC insurance, their FDIC certificate number, what type of bank it was, what their assets were, the history, and then it goes through the timeline. This is all the information that we chain together because each step is important to get to the final result of who can sign. Now you can’t jump to the end; you have to go step by step in this chain of ownership, chain of title. In 1907, it was established as Bank of Suffolk County, changed name to Ecsta Bank in 1980, and acquired another bank. You’ll see a lot of banks will have acquired other institutions along the way, changed trust powers to a certain format, and then here’s an important event, which is why we highlighted it. In 1996, they merged into and subsequently operated as part of North Fork Bank.

Further Acquisitions
What was formerly Ecsta Bank is no longer operating as Ecsta Bank; it’s North Fork Bank. If that was the end of this chain of events or the end of the story, that’s who you’d contact. But it goes on from there. That institution now known as North Fork Bank acquired Home Federal Savings, acquired Reliance, acquired Jamaica Savings Bank, and was reorganized (which just means that their stockholders probably changed). They acquired the Trust Company and acquired Greenpoint Bank. Then here’s another important event: in 2007, it merged into and subsequently operated as part of Capital One. Everybody knows Capital One, right? It’s on TV every day: “What’s in your wallet?” So here you go: here’s Ecsta Bank, not operating since 1996, operated as part of Capital One. That being said, Capital One can now sign a lien release for this bank.

Requesting a Lien Release
We’ll get to exactly how to go about doing that momentarily, but this is the chain of events and how you put it together to get to the current authorized person to provide a lien release. You can get all this information on our website,, as well. But this is walking you through it. Since then, they acquired some other banks, but it didn’t change the name. For example, they acquired Chevy Chase Bank. Chevy Chase Bank is now operating as Capital One also, so that’s not who you would contact. You’ll see later that they acquired some other institutions, such as Superior Savings and Chevy Chase Bank, but even though those occurred after the 2007 merger, those entities would not be authorized to sign for Ecsta Bank because they’re now doing business as Capital One also. They were acquired by Capital One. So that’s where that chain of events goes to.

The Process of Obtaining a Lien Release
The easy answer is to go to Capital One and request a lien release in a very certain way. You can’t just say, “I want a lien release for my car,” because they’re not going to be able to find it if you don’t give them more information. Where does this record series come from? Well, there are two sources. You’re going to find the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation). You can see part of their online resources here. You can research the chain of events for bank ownership at the FDIC. You can also look at the Secretary of State. Here’s an example of a bank; this has nothing to do with the prior search, but in Florida, here’s a First Savings Bank. It’s an active bank; it has their address. It also has what’s called a registered agent. So if this bank ever became non-operating, this registered agent may still be active to sign on behalf of the bank. You’ll also see officers, such as the executive vice president. Even if the bank becomes non-operable, one or more of these parties may be available to sign lien release documents.

Additional Resources
These are the two places you start with a search. Again, our investigative researchers have access to other investigative tools, but typically, this is where you’re going to start to find out who the lien holder is. On our website,, you’ll see a page that’s a resource page. Right up here on the right-hand side, you’ll see resources. It’ll have useful links, every state DMV, all the forms for every state, duplicate title links, and prior owner search links. At the very bottom, there’s a section for lien release links. These are all the major lenders that are very common to request lien releases from. These are currently operating lenders, so if your lender is closed, you may have to go through this process.

Completing the Form
Obtaining the lien release, once you’ve discovered who the lender is, goes like this: first, you get the actual form. Here’s an example of the form for the state of California. Every state has a different form, and you’re going to want to use the form for the state where the title is coming from or where the title was issued. What you want to do is fill out the form yourself. Fill in the vehicle identification number, the model, the registered owner, the name of the bank, the lien holder, and you want to send it to that lien holder by postal mail. You don’t want to call them, you don’t want to email them, and you don’t want to fax them because the DMV at some point is going to need the original document.

Mailing the Form
If you call the lender, you’re leaving it to them to find this form, fill it out, and mail it to you, which they may never do, or they may lose it or forget about you because it was all on the phone. It’s all verbal; there’s nothing documented. You want to fill out this form in advance and mail it to them. In fact, we recommend sending an envelope in what you send them with your return address on it with a stamp so they can easily mail it back. You’ll get it back quicker. No one’s going to leave it on their desk because they can’t find the stamp from the mail room or print out an envelope. You’re going to make it very easy for that person to get that lien release back to you. For the cost of a stamp on an envelope, it’s worth it to have that sped up. That’s how we do it as a title for our clients. You could do the same thing: look up the information, mail a lien release.

Letter of Non-Interest
One last little note: in addition to sending a lien release document, you also want to send what’s called a letter of non-interest. For example, if you go back to the example of Ecsta Bank, you contact Capital One and ask them, “Hey, I need a lien release for my vehicle from Ecsta Bank back in 1990.” If they do not have the records on computer or microfilm and cannot find them easily, they may not be able to send a lien release because they can’t see that it was paid. However, they can send what’s called a letter of non-interest saying, “We don’t have any interest in this subject vehicle with this VIN number,” and that may be the alternative. That letter of non-interest is equally valid with the DMV. You want to give them that option because if they can’t do a lien release, instead of being stuck and not getting a response back, they have the option of sending you a letter of non-interest.

This is the process we use to obtain lien releases for clients. You can do the same thing, or if you have us do it, this is what we do, so it’s fully transparent. If you have any questions, you can reach us at our website, There’s a whole section about lien releases, how it works, what the details are, and we’re glad to help. Of course, our customer service department is available for calls anytime we’re open. If you have questions, there’s a huge FAQ. Remember that the resources section of our website has every form, every document, and every link to every state DMV that you can imagine. We’d be glad to help you.

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