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How To Transfer Lost Title From Deceased Owner

Being required to handle the paperwork to transfer a title from a deceased owner can be frustrating and overwhelming. It’s important to know that you are not alone when it comes to dealing with a lost title in this situation. Fortunately, each state has its own process that can help you understand how to correctly make the title transfer. By following the necessary steps, you’ll be able to get through this time of grieving with minimal delays and headaches.

Title With Survivorship

If the vehicle title has survivorship, then the title is automatically transferred into the survivor’s name. This is because there is only one person listed on the title as the owner of the vehicle. If there are two owners listed on the title with survivorship, then both parties will need to sign to transfer the vehicle from one owner to another.


If there is no survivorship, will the estate be probated? Meaning, has the deceased owner left a will that will go through the court system for the vehicle? If the answer is yes to either of these questions, then you will want to talk to an attorney or a probate specialist who can help you through your next steps. The transfer process may be more streamlined and defined in the official documents or will.

Survivorship vs. Probate

If there is no survivorship and there is no will or probate needed, then you will have to seek permission from all other legal heirs (other family members) before transferring ownership of any property into your name.

Transfer Without Survivorship or Probate

In many situations, the vehicle does not have survivorship nor will the estate require probate. To apply for a new title from a deceased owner in most states, you’ll need to provide the following items to the department of motor vehicles in your state:

Death certificate

Not all states require the death certificate to be included in the application for title. However, be sure to check your state’s requirements prior to submitting your application.

Notarized inheritance affidavit

The inheritance affidavit is a document needed when transferring ownership of a vehicle from a deceased owner. This document outlines the ownership of the vehicle as assigned by all of the surviving heirs of the property/vehicle. In order to transfer ownership, all heirs must sign this document and it must be notarized.

Bill of sale

The bill of sale is your receipt of the transaction for the purchase of the vehicle. Make sure that the bill of sale accurately reflects the vehicle and is signed by all heirs. For more information, check out our article on how to write a bill of sale.

State title application

Every state has its own title application that can be found on their department of motor vehicles’ website or in person. Your state may have additional paperwork requirements to transfer the title from a deceased owner, be sure to check with your state department before proceeding.

Odometer disclosure

The odometer disclosure provides an accurate representation of the mileage on the odometer of the vehicle at the time of purchase. Some states include this on their state title application, while other states like Maryland, may require an additional form.

Lien release letter

If the car title of the deceased owner has a lien, you must obtain a vehicle lien release from the lienholder/lender before transferring the title. For more information on vehicle lien release, check out our article on how to clear a lien on a car title.

Transferring a deceased owner’s vehicle title can be challenging, especially when you are dealing with the grief and loss of a loved one. Remember to take care of yourself in addition to caring for your deceased loved one’s property. If there is an estate or survivorship, consider consulting or hiring a lawyer to assist you in this process. We always recommend getting good legal advice when transferring a title from a deceased owner, as the DMV cannot provide legal advice.

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