Who can drive the car for how long?

My friend Dan’s companion of 15 years recently died. Her will is decades old so it doesn’t include him in anything. She financed a new car one year ago, Dan is included on the car insurance, but not on the car loan. He really needs to use the car to get his life settled right now. If he continues to make the loan and insurance payments is it alright for him to drive the car for a few more months?

Asked on February 28, 2019 under Estate Planning, Ohio

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 1 year ago | Contributor

Legally, if he is not on the title of the car, he should not be driving it: the car does not belong to him, and when the sole owner of a car passes away, it becomes the property of her estate. As estate property, it can only be used for the benefit of the beneficiaries, not other people--but if he and she were not married and he is not named in the will, he is not a beneficiary. 
Practically, if he continues to make the payments and takes care of the care (e.g. pays for an maintenance or repairs) it is unlikely that anyone (lender; executor of the will; beneficiaries) will complain. But he needs to be aware that if any of those parties do take exception to him driving the car, they can stop him from doing so--he does not have any legal right to drive it unless he is on the title (not just the loan; the actual title).


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