Navigating Vehicle Ownership Transfer After a Loved One’s Death

Vehicle Ownership Transfer

One of the most common concerns people have when planning their estate is the future of their vehicles. At Lumsden Law Firm, we understand the intricacies involved in transferring vehicle ownership after death. Whether your vehicle is a car, motorcycle, RV, or boat, it’s essential to know the proper steps to ensure a smooth transition.

The Role of Probate in Vehicle Transfer

Probate is a legal process that administers the distribution of a deceased person’s estate. If your vehicle is solely in your name and you have no other means of transfer, it may need to go through probate. This process ensures that debts are settled and the vehicle is legally transferred to the rightful heir.

Joint Ownership and Titles

How your vehicle is titled affects the transfer process. Vehicles with titles that include “or” between the owners’ names can be easily transferred to the surviving owner. On the other hand, titles with “and” require more legal steps to transfer ownership, often necessitating probate.

Placing Vehicles in a Trust

To avoid probate, consider placing your valuable vehicles into a revocable living trust. This approach can simplify the transfer process and provide clear instructions for your heirs. However, it’s essential to understand the potential insurance implications, as some agents may view trust-owned vehicles as higher risk.

Special Cases: Leased Vehicles

Leased vehicles have different considerations. Upon death, the lease can be terminated, and the vehicle returned to the dealership. Depending on the car’s value at return, your estate may either receive a refund or owe money to the dealership. These financial transactions may require probate if other assets are involved.

What If There Is No Will?

If you pass away without a will, transferring vehicle ownership can still be managed through the DMV. The Florida DMV has specific procedures for transferring vehicles to surviving spouses or children. These procedures can be found in the Florida DMV Procedure Handbook, section TL-18.

Dealing with Debts

Outstanding debts or vehicle loans complicate the transfer process. Probate may be necessary to settle these debts before the vehicle can be transferred. Ensuring that your vehicle’s title is correctly managed and addressing any debts can save your heirs time and stress.


Transferring vehicle ownership after death involves various factors, from how the vehicle is titled to the existence of a will or trust. At Lumsden Law Firm, we provide expert guidance to help you navigate these complexities. For more detailed information, refer to the Florida DMV Procedure Handbook.

Contact Lumsden Law Firm today to ensure your estate planning is comprehensive and your vehicle transfer process is smooth.

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