What to do with Your Estate Plan if Your Car Title is only in the Name of One Spouse
Jordan: Hi, I'm Jordan Flake. I'm an attorney at Clear Counsel Law Group. I have a question here: My husband's name is on the title of a vehicle that I have made all the payments for. If he dies before the title can be put in my name, will the vehicle go into his estate?
That's a good question. The general response to that is when we're trying to determine what assets go into someone's estate, what we look at is whose name is on the title. For this client here, if your husband's name is on the title of the car and he passes away, then automatically we're going to assume that that car is part of his estate. Now this is a tough situation because for this individual they made all the payments for this car. You have two response about a better way to handle this.
One is how do we handle this better in advance of this problem. That would be probably with the vehicle, just putting it in some kind of joint ownership. You can put either and/or on the title. You probably would have done well to put or on the title of the vehicle and say husband or wife owns this. That makes it as simple as possible. Obviously, in this case, maybe they didn't get a chance to do that. The vehicle's just sitting there in the husband's name and he's now passed away.
The next part of the analysis would be what else is in the husband's estate. Because if it's just the car, we may be able to do a small, simple DMV form affidavit of entitlement that basically gives the wife the title of the car without any problems. If there are properties and bank accounts and investment accounts in a larger estate, then basically dealing with that estate is going to have more procedure, more requirements. That becomes a very fact-intensive analysis.
In any event, though, if the spouse was the one that make all the payments, if the wife in this scenario was the one to make all the payments, we should be able to get those basically back in her pocket one way or another. Any other questions on this?
Brian: Back to the DMV affidavit. If the wife had not made all of the payments, but let's say three-quarters of the payments, is that still a possibility?
Jordan: Here we're assuming that maybe it's an intestate estate. Everything would go to the surviving spouse in this scenario if there is no will. If there is a will or if there's a trust, that can affect maybe the distribution, but here it wouldn't matter if the wife had made none of the payments. If there's no will, state law says everything goes to the surviving spouse. It really wouldn't matter if the spouse had made all or none of the payments in that case.
In any event, though, if you come across a situation like this, call me up. We can discuss it. We can meet for a free consultation. I'd be happy to walk you through this or any other type of estate-related question you might have.