How Do You Buy a Used Car from a Deceased Person's Estate?

How Do You Buy a Used Car from a Deceased Person's Estate?

Friday, January 10, 2020

How do you buy a car that belonged to a deceased person? Are the “rules” that may differ from a traditional used car ownership transfer? Purchasing a vehicle from a deceased person’s estate sale does not differ much from buying any other used car. Conveniently, for the purchaser most of the work lies with the executor of the estate whose job it is to ensure the sale and transfer of ownership is legal. The same laws apply in an estate transaction as it does when you buy a vehicle from any private seller, or a used car dealership. The buyer is required to pay sales tax, if applicable according to your state laws – check with your local Department of Motor Vehicles on your specific requirements. A sales receipt may be required along with any other paperwork found at DMV.

What Should the Buyer Do When Purchasing a Car from a Deceased Person’s Estate Sale?

Inspect the Car

When a car sits for an extended period of time, as can happen with an estate sale, it can develop mechanical problems requiring repairs. Not only should the buyer take the time to inspect the vehicle, but they should also consider taking an automotive specialist along or request to take the car to one for inspection. On the surface the purchaser may be able to see any obvious damages, but without the knowledge of an experienced mechanic, internal issues may be missed by a non-mechanical buyer. If mechanical issues are present, it may be possible to negotiate the asking price down.

Has the Vehicle Been Cleared By Probate Court - Is the Sale Is Legal?

If probate court has approved the vehicle to be sold prior to it clearing the estate, the executor will be able to present documentation as “right to sale proof “. It is imperative to confirm the seller is authorized to sell the car. Ask to see proof he/she can legally sell items from the estate. The documentation should include:

  • Probate Court Order
  • Death Certificate
  • Personal Identification

It is also recommended the buyer inquire with the probate court the documentation is legitimate and the executor has the court’s approval to sell assets from an estate sale.

NOTE: Be sure to keep a copy of the death certificate to present to DMV when transferring the title to new ownership.

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Examine and Compare the Title with Existing Paperwork

Prior to a final purchase:

  • Confirm the vehicle was legally owned by the decedent.
  • Verify the car’s VIN (vehicle identification number) located in the lower portion of the windshield on the driver’s side matches the VIN present on the vehicle title.
  • Compare the name and address matches on both the death certificate and the title of registration.
  • Check the same information matches on all other documentation (if applicable).
  • If any information does not match contact the police or a lawyer before proceeding with a purchase.

Title Transfer

Once everything has been reviewed and verified the last steps are easy.

  • The executor signature and the sale date go the back of the title – be sure it is in the correct boxes and all other information required by the seller is properly entered.
  • Give the executor the money for the vehicle.
  • Take the title to the local Department of Motor Vehicles or the local tax assessor’s office – confirm with proper procedures with DMV.
  • Confirm if insurance coverage is required prior to obtaining the title in the seller’s name.
  • Inquire if other requirements exist by the local DMV or tax assessor’s office.
  • Confirm all fees required with the local DMV or tax assessor’s office.

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