My dad passed away three years ago this month. Fortunately, my mom is in excellent health and lives close to most of her family. Like many women of her generation, she was not involved in financial decision making as much as she probably should have been. She needed assistance in figuring out her finances and navigating the probate process.

Not everyone is as fortunate as my mom is to have three lawyers and a MBA to call on when she has a question. I know many of you have or will face similar situations with your own parents. I thought it would be helpful from time to time to discuss how to handle some of the tasks that come up in the probate process.

Today’s topic is how to get a new car title if the registered owner is deceased.

A word of caution. I am licensed in Texas and the discussion below only pertains to Texas law. Other states may have similar or completely different procedures for getting a new car title.

There is a Will AND It Was Probated

If the will has been probated, the court will issue Letters of Testamentary. The person named in the Letters of Testamentary is the person who is authorized to sign the back of the title and the application for title (see below).

If There Was No Will OR There Was a Will, But It Will Never Be Probated

This was my mom’s situation. There was a will, but we decided it did not need to be probated.

You will need to complete the Affidavit of Heirship form. Each signature on this form must be notarized.

If the surviving spouse is still living AND the deceased spouse had no children from a prior marriage, only the surviving spouse as the only heir has to sign the Affidavit of Heirship. If the deceased spouse did have children from a prior marriage, then the surviving spouse and all of the other children must sign as heirs.

Required Documents

Here are the documents you will need to present to your local Department of Motor Vehicles office:

  • one of the documents listed above (the Letters of Testamentary or the Affidavit of Heirship);
  • the title signed on the back by the authorized person listed as heir, or executor of the estate, as applicable (see the discussion above); and
  • an Application for Certificate of Title; the “Seller” signature is either the person named in the Letters of Testamentary or any one of the heirs, depending on which form you have to use (see the discussion above).

If you have any questions in figuring out the circumstances of the estate at issue or in completing any of the forms, consult with an estate planning attorney.

On a personal note, I am proud to say that while my mom did need some assistance early in the probate process, she is a quick learner and now has a sufficient knowledge base (and confidence) to tackle issues that come up on her own.

The picture of the Mercedes is a tribute to my dad. The car at issue in my mom’s case was my dad’s S-Class Mercedes. He loved driving that car and picking his grandkids up from school in it (his own kids had to take the bus). My mom kept the car and it’s nice every now and then to drive it and remember my dad.

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