What to do about a lien on a title when the lienholder has passed away?

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What to do about a lien on a title when the lienholder has passed away?

I have a vehicle that was being purchased 6 years ago. The title has a lien on it, the payments were stopped due to financial issues, but the story is stranger that that. The owner of the car lot from where it was being purchased went out of business and unfortunately committed suicide. 6 years later the vehicle has been sitting, no tags, lost registration, lost title. I did a VIN search and there is indeed a lien on the car. No one has contacted us in 6 years, the vehicle is now fixed and running, but how do we make this vehicle legal again? What do we do to get this vehicle clear and legal? Because the lien holder has passed, who do we contact?

Asked on August 19, 2010 under Bankruptcy Law, Tennessee

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

What a situation.  The rights of the lien holder passed to his estate upon his death.  Did he own the dealership?  Then there were indeed assets that had to go through probate. And there would have been an executor  Probate proceeding are filed in the county in which the decedent resided at the time of his or her death. The business, though, was most likely registered in some way in the county in which it stood. And if it was a corporation, then with the state.  So you have three possible leads: contact the Secretary of State to find out what happened to the business and who was the agent for service of process, go and look up the probate in the probate court to contact the personal representative of the estate and go to the county clerk's office to see if there are any contact records for a business doing business in that county. The person who will be able to help is the personal Representative of the estate.  He or she has the power over estate assets.  Good luck.


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