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What To Do If You Have A Lost Title & Deceased Owner

When a title is lost and the owner is deceased, you may be required to handle the paperwork to transfer ownership of the vehicle to another person. The process can be confusing and overwhelming on top of the emotions of your loss, but it is important to know that you are not alone in this situation. Each state has its own laws regarding lost titles, which can help you understand how to correctly make the transfer. While all state regulations and timelines differ slightly, the basic process to transfer a lost title from a deceased owner remains the same.

Probate Estate

If the deceased person left a will, the estate will be probated. This means that the deceased owner left a will stating that a particular person is to receive the vehicle upon their death. If there is no will, it is called intestate succession and the vehicle may be distributed as dictated by state law. In many cases, this means that the surviving spouse will receive the car.

If there are no heirs or if there are but they cannot be located, then it is possible that you may have to go through an heir search in order to find who has a claim to the vehicle.

Title With Survivorship

When survivorship is listed on the vehicle title, then the title will automatically be 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 or more owners with survivorship listed on your title, all parties will need to sign to transfer ownership of the vehicle from one owner to another.

Title Transfer Without Probate Or Survivorship

If there are no survivorship rights and no probate is needed, then you will have to seek permission from other family members before transferring ownership of the vehicle into your name.

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

Many states will require you to supply the official death certificate of the prior owner or a certified copy. Not all states will have this requirement to transfer from a deceased owner, be sure to check your state’s laws before proceeding.

Notarized Inheritance Affidavit From Heirs

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

Notarized Bill Of Sale

The bill of sale is written proof that you purchased the vehicle from the heir. Think of your bill of sale as a receipt of purchase. In many states, the bill of sale must be notarized for deceased owner title transfers. If it’s not required in your state, it may be beneficial to have the document notarized anyway to add extra legitimacy to your document.

Need to write a bill of sale? Check out our article: How Do You Write A Bill Of Sale For A Car?

State Title Application

Each state has a different application for title transfers. They can be found online or at your local Department of Motor Vehicles office. Before you begin, check with your state’s department to make sure you have all the right paperwork because there may be additional requirements in your state.

Upon submission of the state title application for deceased owner transfer, make sure to include the appropriate title fees designated by your state.

Odometer Disclosure

The odometer disclosure provides a true and accurate statement of mileage at the time of sale. Some states allow for this to be disclosed on the bill of sale or the title application, although some states have a completely separate Odometer Disclosure process.

Lien Release Letter

If there is a lien on the vehicle, then the title is unable to be transferred until the lien is released from the lender. In some instances, for example, if the lien is more than 10 years old, the lender can send you a letter of non-interest in lieu of a lien release. This letter of non-interest states that the lender is no longer interested in pursuing the lien.

If you are transferring a title for a vehicle that was owned by your deceased 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. takes the hassle out of applying for a title for your vehicle. Our team of title experts can help prepare your paperwork for any title recovery method provided.

Want a professional to do it for you?

For as little as $159 for most processes, we will save you the headache and prepare all of the car title paperwork needed to get you a new title. Simply choose the title recovery method you’d like to use and we’ll get started!

Select your title recovery method:

Order Vermont Title LoopholeOrder Deceased Owner Title TransferOrder Bonded Title ProcessOrder Abandoned Vehicle ProcessOrder Prior Owner ContactOrder Lien Release Request Letter

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Don’t let uncertainty hold you back. If it’s your car, you deserve a title.

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