America has a very car-centric culture. We drive everywhere — especially here in the Brandon, Mississippi area — and don’t bat an eye. We sing songs about our love of cars, watch movies with thrilling chase scenes, and consider car racing a sport. We polish our hotrods, get mud on the tires of our pickup trucks, and pack our SUVs full of groceries with glee.
It should therefore come as no surprise that people often care a great deal about what will happen to their car after they die. After all, a car is often one of the most valuable pieces of property a person owns. And cars often hold sentimental value, as well as being something your loved ones can put to use.
When a car owner has specific plans for the future of their vehicle, the Palmer & Slay team works with them to make sure their wishes are respected. There are a variety of different ways to transfer the ownership of a car after death, many of which avoid the probate process.
What Is Probate? And Why Avoid It?
Under Mississippi law, a person’s estate must typically go through the probate process after they die. Probate is a legal process in which a court oversees the distribution of the deceased person’s assets and the payment of the deceased person’s debts.
Going to probate court is a fairly straightforward process, but waiting for the case to work its way through the system takes time and may invite challenges from unhappy heirs. Many people prefer to avoid probate by taking one of the following routes.
If a car owner wants his or her spouse to easily take full ownership of the couple’s vehicles after one of them dies, the vehicle can be titled in both of their names:
- If the vehicle is titled JOHN DOE OR JOE DOE, either owner can take full possession of the car.
- If the vehicle is titled JOHN DOE AND/OR JOE DOE, it is held as a joint tenancy with right of survivorship. Once one party dies, the other need only provide proof of death in order to retitle the vehicle.
If the intent is to allow either spouse to take full ownership of the car after one spouse dies, it is best to title the vehicle as above. Titling a vehicle in the names of JOHN DOE AND JOE DOE creates a tenancy in common. When one of the parties dies, the other must go through probate or file an “Affidavit Where the Owner Dies Without a Will” form with the Mississippi Department of Revenue. (Read on for more info about this process.)
It is also important to note that under current Mississippi law, a vehicle can only have two owners, and both owners must live at the same address. So, joint ownership is not a good way to pass ownership of a car to someone other than your spouse.
Transfer By Affidavit
If you want to be proactive about making sure your car ends up in the right hands this particular option is not the best path forward, but it is an option, and it does avoid probate, so we’re going to briefly mention it.
Under Mississippi law, if someone dies without a will, or dies with a will but has an estate that is so small it will not be probated, the next of kin can file an “Affidavit Where the Owner Dies Without a Will” form with the Mississippi Department of Revenue to pass the ownership of a deceased person’s car on to its next owner.
Putting The Car In Trust
Transferring ownership of a car to a trust is the best way to avoid probate if the new owner is not going to be the current owner’s spouse. The trust will be the full owner of the car, and the trustee can transfer ownership as needed before or after the trust creator’s death.
Preserving Your Wealth. Protecting Your Loved Ones.
If you want to ensure your car is quickly and easily transferred to its new owner after your death, you should take steps now to make sure that new owner can avoid the probate process. No matter who you want that new owner to be, the Palmer & Slay team can help you craft an estate plan that meets your needs. Please contact our experienced team of attorneys today to schedule an initial consultation.