How to Transfer a Car After a Death

New Car GiftWhen you die, someone is going to benefit from the use of your car. Wouldn’t it be nice to decide now exactly who that person should be?

You can do that today – it’s easy!  When registering a vehicle, you can designate a transfer-on-death (TOD) beneficiary, not unlike what you can do with a bank account.

How to designate a beneficiary

Simply complete the area reserved for this purpose on the reverse side of your registration certificate. If you do not have a registration certificate, or if you are registering a new vehicle, complete the Official Registration, Form H-13, and designate the Owner in Box 1 as “John Doe, Transfer on Death to Jane Doe.”

When you die, the transfer-on-death beneficiary need only bring a certified copy of your death certificate to the nearest Department of Vehicles office to have the registration transferred.

What if a beneficiary wasn’t assigned ahead of time?

If an individual has died, and the above steps were not taken in advance, there is some extra legwork involved to transfer ownership of the vehicle. You will need to visit your nearest DMV office to register the vehicle. Make sure you bring:

  • The Certificate of Title, assigned to the new owner by the Executor or Administrator of the estate,
  • A certified copy of the Probate Court document authorizing the transfer of the vehicle (a list of acceptable probate documents can be found on the DMV’s website at,
  • A completed Application Registration and Certificate of Title, Form H-13,
  • A current insurance card in your name for the vehicle; and
  • Valid identification (a list of acceptable forms of identification is available on the DMV’s website at

There may be special circumstances requiring extra documentation. For example, if the vehicle was previously registered out of state or if it is not in compliance with state emissions requirements.

When you prepare your estate planning documents, you are thinking ahead about how to preserve your money and your property. It’s the perfect time to designate a transfer-on-death beneficiary for your car. You’re not only stating who receives the gift of your car, you’re making it easy for that person to receive that gift.

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