My deceased mom’s name was on the title of my car and now it belongs to her husband and he won’t sign paperwork to gift me the car, what can I do?

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My deceased mom’s name was on the title of my car and now it belongs to her husband and he won’t sign paperwork to gift me the car, what can I do?

My mom passed away with no will and was separated from her husband.
The car was registered in her name and now it belongs to him. He
doesn’t want it, but he won’t sign the necessary paperwork required by
the DMV in order to gift it to me so I can put the registration in my
name. My name and my mother’s name is on the loan, so if I default on
the loan it’s on my credit. What can I do?

Asked on December 10, 2017 under Estate Planning, Massachusetts

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Actually, if the car had been registered only in her name (not jointly with him) and there was no will, it does not belong solely to him. When there is no will, property (including cars) passes by "intestate succession," which are the rules for who gets what when there is no will. In your state, that means the spouse gets 1/2 and children get the other 1/2 (all children together share the other 1/2). If you are the only child, you inherited a half interest in the car, and her husband inherited the other half interest. You and he should both have become owners co-owners. As a part owner, you have the ability to force the sale of the car if you and the other owner can't agree on what to do with it: the proceeds of the sale would be first applied to the outstanding loan, then the remainder, if any, split among the owners.
So you should have legal grounds to force the car to be sold or use that as leverage to get him to transfer his interest to you. Doing so will involve legal action, however, such as putting the estate into probate. This will be a complex action--much more so than, say, small claims court--and you really should retain an attorney to help you.  Or course, you will need to factor the cost of the legal action vs. the loan; if the loan is mostly paid off, you may be best off simply paying the balance so as to avoid the impact on your credit and forgetting about the car itself.


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