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How to transfer vehicle ownership of the deceased in Texas

Navigating the Texas car title transfer process after a loved one's death can be challenging. Our guide outlines the steps and requirements to make it easier for you.

How to transfer vehicle ownership of the deceased in Texas

Trying to manage assets, family affairs, and your emotional health after a loved one passes away is exhausting. We’ve noticed that the most challenging part about dealing with estate matters after the death of a family member isn’t necessarily the process–it’s the timing. In many ways, it can create the perfect storm you don’t know how to navigate through.

Transferring some of those assets can be tricky even if you only have to deal with a small estate. If you’re trying to figure out how to transfer ownership of a vehicle in Texas that is registered in the name of the decedent, this guide is for you.

What documents do you need to transfer a vehicle title after death?

The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles indicates what evidence is required to transfer ownership of a vehicle that is owned by a decedent. These documents will need to be brought to your local county office. There are two scenarios you need to consider: if the estate is probated, or not. The documentation requirements do not change substantially, but there will be some extra things you need. Here’s what you need in each scenario:

If the estate was probated

  • The original title of the vehicle
  • Death certificate
  • If there was a loan on the vehicle, evidence that the loan was paid or the original release of the lien
  • Completed Form 130-U (Title and/or Registration Application)
  • Applicant’s driver’s license or other government-issued photo ID
  • Original or certified copy of the Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration
  • If you are applying for registration, a copy of your current vehicle insurance
  • Proof of a current Texas vehicle inspection
  • Odometer record

If the estate was not probated

  • All of the documents listed above
  • + Copy of the will showing the decedent’s name and that you are an heir
  • + Original or certified copy of the court document indicating that no administration of the will is necessary

Quick Note: Wondering how to find the nearest county office in your area? Check out the Texas Department of Motor Vehicle’s handy office finder.

How to transfer a vehicle title in Texas after someone dies with a will

Now that we have pointed out documentation requirements, let’s examine the steps you need to take to finally get the vehicle into the hands of the person it belongs to. If the decedent passed away with a valid will in place, things are generally straightforward.

  1. Gather all required documents - Before taking time out of your already busy day to potentially wait in line at your local county office, ensure that you have all the necessary documents we mentioned above on hand and filled out. This includes the important step of completing the Application for a Texas Certificate of Title Form (VTR-130-UIF) and making sure you have a current vehicle inspection done.
  2. Submit documentation to the local county tax office - Once all of the above is completed and in place, it’s time to submit it to one of the employees of your local tax office. Remember that certain documentation (such as the Gift Affidavit) will need to be notarized or signed in front of the employee.
  3. Pay all fees and taxes - As with many things, the cost of transferring ownership of a vehicle will vary from county to county. Generally speaking, you can expect to pay between $28-$33 in county office fees, and around a few dollars for a title fee. If you need to register the vehicle after the transfer, expect to pay around $10 if the vehicle was not registered at the time. If it was, expect to pay only a few dollars for the registration. The best way to check costs in your area is to call your local county office. In the event that the vehicle is being gifted and is out of the state of Texas, a $10 gift tax rate will need to be remitted.
  4. Receive your new certificate of title - At this point you will be able to claim the new certificate of title, or successfully transfer the title to a seller if you administer the estate’s assets. The county tax office where you completed the transaction will be able to issue the new title.

How to transfer a vehicle in Texas if someone died without a will

When the decedent died without a will in place (died intestate) the process becomes a bit more convoluted. There are two common scenarios to be aware of when trying to transfer vehicle ownership when a will was not in place.

No will and no probate

In cases when either no one has applied to be the administrator of the estate, the probate court has deemed it not necessary, or the probate court has determined administration of the decedent’s property is not required, the vehicle title will be transferred through heirship.

Heirship is the process of property being inherited by the next eligible family member, as defined by state laws. When this occurs, the process of transferring ownership of the vehicle is the same as previously mentioned, but also requires an Affidavit of Heirship to be filled out by all heirs and notarized.

When the court has determined administration of the property is not necessary, you will also need to bring an original or certified copy of that document to complete the transfer.

No will but probate occurred

When a situation occurs where there is no will but the probate courts determine that the estate needs to be administered, the title is no longer transferred by heirship. Instead, the courts will decide which family members inherit which property, so the requirements to transfer title are slightly different than with heirship.

Rather than bring an Affidavit of Heirship, the administrator of the estate will need to present the Letters Testamentary (Letters of Administration) proving that they have the authority to transfer the vehicle as part of their administration of the decedent’s estate. Once you have these documents completed, the process of transferring the title is the same as with other cases.

Reminder: Regardless of whether the vehicle was transferred via heirship or an order of the courts, if it qualifies as a gift you will need the Affidavit of Motor Vehicle Gift Transfer.

Does a vehicle transfer from an estate to a beneficiary count as a gift?

An important question to focus on when collecting required documents is whether or not the transfer of the vehicle from the decedent results in a gift.

If it does, this changes the procedure quite a bit–regarding taxes and documentation.

The main point to note is whether or not the recipient of the vehicle is an eligible party, as defined by Form 14-317 Affidavit of Motor Vehicle Gift Transfer. An eligible recipient is anyone who receives ownership of the vehicle from a family member (spouse, parent, grandparent) or the estate of a decedent.

It does not matter whether this ownership was inherited or willed by the decedent, as long as it is received from their estate. In this instance, the transfer does result in a gift and you will need to complete Form 14-317 and either have it notarized or filled out in front of a representative at a county office.

Remember: When the executor/administrator will be selling the vehicle to an arm’s-length person (non-related) then this affidavit is not required.

Need help transferring vehicle ownership in Texas?

None of the estate administration processes is easy, never mind having to cope with the emotional strain of losing a loved one. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by having to transfer ownership of a vehicle, our empathetic estate professionals can help. Book a free consultation with us today, and let’s get you back on your feet.

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