Avoid probate co-register my car or give/sell it to beneficiary?

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Avoid probate co-register my car or give/sell it to beneficiary?

To avoid probate I was told to cre-register my car with my estate beneficiary.
It occurs to me that if I had an auto accident with potential liability higher
than my auto insurance, my beneficiary could be financially liable as well. It
seems to me that instead I should just transfer give/sell my car to the
beneficiary. I live in MA.

Asked on November 9, 2018 under Estate Planning, Massachusetts

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

You are correct: if there are multiple owners (i.e. multiple people to whom a car is registered) and there is an accident in which the driver is at fault, then all owners are potentially liable for any amounts not paid by insurance. So co-titling it the beneficiary while you are alive exposes him to liability.
If you don't need the car, then give or sell it to him. Remember that getting something of value is the equivalent (legally) of receiving money, so if the current fair market value of the car (given make, model, year, condition) exceeds the current gift exclusion for taxes ($15,000), there will be taxes owed if it is gifted, since it will be equivalent of giving the beneficiary more than the excluded amount in cash.


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