The purpose of this article is to provide information on how to transfer a vehicle (automobile, vessel, car) that was owned by a decedent into the name of the rightful heir whether it be within Probate or outside of Probate in California.
Transferring a Car Owned by Decedent Within Probate in California:
If a formal probate procedure has been initiated for the decedent’s estate, transferring ownership of the automobile(s) is relatively simple as the asset will need to be formally transferred just like other probate assets within the court procedure.
After a Letters have issued within a probate, the personal representative will need to file an Inventory and Appraisal documenting all assets of the probate estate. Items listed on Attachment 1 of the Inventory and Appraisal are assets which can be readily valued independently by the personal representative, such as money or cash items such as cash bank accounts. Items listed on Attachment 2 of the Inventory and Appraisal includes all assets not included in Attachment 1, namely items that cannot be immediately converted to cash on a dollar for dollar basis. This includes real property, stocks, business interests, and amongst many other things VEHICLES.
Items placed on Attachment 2 of the Inventory and Appraisal are independently appraised by a probate referee, this is to insure that the valuation of these non-cash items is neutrally assessed by a non-interested third party.
When listing the automobile(s) on Attachment 2 of the Inventory and Appraisal, include the following information pertaining to the car in order to assist the probate referee in accurately appraising the vehicle:
1. Copy of the most recent registration.
2. Year, Make, Model and Vehicle Identification Number or Hull Number.
3. Mileage (or engine time).
4. Any information that would assist in valuing the property, such as insurance value, prior appraisals, sale price if recently purchased, location of vehicle, general condition, and so forth.
Transferring a Car Owned by Decedent Outside of Probate in California:
If a formal probate procedure is not initiated for the decedent, and will not be initiated in the future (for example a Small Estate Procedure is utilized), then the heir claiming a right to the automobile, such as the surviving spouse or child/grandchild, can file an Affidavit for Transfer Without Probate.
Per California Probate Code Section 13050, any vehicle registered with the DMV is excluded in determining the value of a decedent’s estate – This is useful when an heir chooses to utilize a a Small Estate Affidavit, as the value of the automobile is not considered when calculating the $150,000.00 maximum.
To transfer the car, the following will need to be done:
2. Find the vehicle’s Certificate of Title (pink slip) or apply for a new one if one is not found.
3. Complete the Affidavit for Transfer Without Probate form (REG 5). Click here to download.
4. Complete the Statement of Facts (REG 256). Click here to download.
5. Obtain the owner’s Death Certificate as a copy will be needed by the DMV.
6. Include the odometer reading on the Certificate of Title.
7. Pay the transfer fee ($10-15) depending on your situation.
Once this information is compiled and completed, contact your local DMV office as to which method (in person or mailing) would be best to submit documents to complete the transfer. No official court documents are needed to complete this transfer.