When a friend or loved one dies, their car is usually the last thing on anyone’s mind. Ultimately, however, an answer must be found to “what about the car?” Typically, the task of dealing with it—and other possessions—falls to the administrator or executor of the estate, who is appointed in surrogate court.
In The Name of The Deceased
When a car is in the name of a deceased family member or friend, someone needs the legal authority to deal with it, and that someone is the fiduciary designated to bring closure to the affairs of the deceased. When there is a will, this fiduciary is usually referred to as the executor. If there is not a will—which is the case in many families—the local surrogate court, alternately referred to as probate court, will appoint the fiduciary, who is typically referred to as an administrator. No matter what term is used, the family member, friend or professional appointed has a fiduciary obligation “to act with the utmost good faith,” putting the interests of the beneficiaries before their own, while administering the affairs of the estate. Trustate underscores: “As the Executor, Administrator, or Personal Representative of an estate, you have a legal obligation to adhere to the laws in place to safeguard the heirs and possessions of a deceased person, including their home, collectibles, and vehicles.”
Given the significant responsibilities involved in serving as an administrator, a type of fiduciary bond, often referred to as an administrator bond is frequently required. Essentially, an administrator bond guarantees the faithful performance of duties in accordance with the law. It’s quick and easy to obtain administrator and other bonds from leading national provider, Colonial Surety. The steps to obtaining an administrator or other fiduciary bond at Colonial are simple: get a quote online; fill out the information, and enter payment. Then, just print or e-file the bond—in minutes.
Before anything can be done with the car of a deceased person, court authority must be granted. Experts at Trustate break down these steps:
If no will exists, one must still go through the appropriate court to obtain Letters of Administration to be authorized to take control of and distribute the vehicle. Once you have the authority to sell the vehicle, you must complete the Assignment of Ownership section on the reverse side of the Certificate of Title. This section must include the full name and address of the buyer as well as the agreed-upon price of the vehicle. Complete the top portion on the back of the Certificate of the Title as pictured below and leave the rest of the sections blank.
Trustate provides further information and examples about the title transfer and sale of a car right here. For more information about the duties of a court appointed administrator, probate court and the laws of intestate succession, click here. Though horror stories about probate abound, it’s important to keep in mind there is nothing inherently wrong with the probate process. It is, however a public process, and can take some time, usually a year or so, based on the circumstances. With or without a will, most families will smoothly work through their state’s probate process to settle the affairs of the deceased. Most families will also successfully avoid probate litigation, brought about through snags like unpaid taxes, debts, big conflicts among family members or contested wills.
Surrogate Court Bound?
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Founded in 1930, Colonial Surety Company is a direct writer of a wide range of bonds and insurance products. Colonial is rated “A Excellent” by A.M. Best Company, U.S. Treasury listed, and licensed for business everywhere in the USA.