HOW TO TRANSFER VEHICLE OWNERSHIP FROM THE DECEASED
BEWARE OF VIN-CLONING SCHEMES A customer will often seek to trade in or sell the vehicle of a deceased relative, for whom they’re the next of kin. This can be a complex procedure. If the current title owner is deceased, first determine: • Who is the individual trading in the vehicle? • What is the current value of that vehicle (meaning fair market value — or book value — reduced by any outstanding loans or security interests)? Surviving spouse or child: If the person selling or trading the vehicle is the spouse or a child of the deceased individual, and the vehicle’s value does not exceed $25,000, the transaction can proceed with the following documentation: • DMV Form MV-349.1 (revised 07/2015). • A copy of the death certificate. • A completed original title – signed by the spouse or child with the appropriate title after the transferor’s name (i.e., the vehicle is titled to John Smith and is being traded in by his surviving spouse, Jane Smith, she signs the seller box: “Jane Smith, spouse”). Other next of kin: Obviously, there are some circumstances in which there is no surviving spouse or child. In these cases, DMV will still A “cloned” VIN refers to a VIN that has been replicated and then placed on an identical vehicle (same make, model, year, etc.), in order to hide that the identical vehicle is actually stolen. There have been reported cases across the country of these vehicles being either traded-in to dealerships or sold to unsuspecting individuals. This is yet another reason why it is critical for dealerships to examine the histories of any vehicle they are considering taking as a trade-in. Obtain vehicle histories from reporting sites like Carfax.com, or run VIN searches through DMV-DIRECT. Results will reveal (or very strongly suggest) if multiple vehicles
allow the designated next of kin, whoever that may be, to transfer the vehicle, provided: • The vehicle’s value does not exceed $25,000. • There is no Last Will & Testament that will be offered for probate, and no court has issued or will issue “Letters” (of “Administration” or “Testamentary”). • There is only one vehicle titled in the deceased’s name. In this case, the following documentation is required: • DMV Form MV-349 (revised 04/2016). • A copy of the death certificate. • Letters of Administration or Letters of Testamentary. • A completed original title — signed by the Next of Kin — with “Next of Kin” written after his/her name. Non-eligible vehicles: If the vehicle is valued at more than $25,000, DMV requires the seller to: • Produce a photocopy of the death certificate. • Provide certified copies of the “Letters of Administration” or “Letters of Testamentary” from the Probate Court, as well as the original title. The Administrator or Executor would then sign his or her name on the Title, followed by his or her appropriate title — i.e., “Administrator” or “Executor”.
exist with the same VIN; for example, the report would indicate if there are odometer discrepancies, different owners, conflicting inspection details, etc. Of
course, the sale or trade-in should be voided at that time. Adverse information does not definitively tell a dealer that the stolen vehicle is the one in their store; it could very well be the original. However, it prevents the dealership from unknowingly accepting stolen property, which can trigger exhaustive DMV audits of the dealership’s trade-in policy.