If a titled owner of a vehicle passes away, how do you get title into your name?

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If a titled owner of a vehicle passes away, how do you get title into your name?

My mother and I purchased a van about 2 years ago. She passed away; her name only is on the title but both names are on the loan. I have made every payment on the van. The family doesn’t want to open up the estate through probate court because she was in debt and her only asset was the van. My family believe that there is no point in doing so, and that I should just stop paying on the van and let it go. I don’t want to do that after all the money I’ve paid for it so far. What do I need to do to keep my van if possible?

Asked on March 3, 2011 under Estate Planning, Ohio

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

First, you need to understand--it's *not* your van, not in the eyes of the law. Paying someone's note, or even being liable on a loan, does not give one ownership. Many times, for example, one family member will cosign for another or help another with payments, and that does not give them an ownership interest. If the van was only in your mother's name, it was her van alone. Now that she's passed, it will go to whomever will inherit under a will (if she has one) or by intestate succession (if she does not have a will). In the meantime, if someone does not keep paying the note,  the van will be repossessed. Moreover, if you're on the loan, you *have* to keep paying--if you don't the lender can sue you, your credit will be damaged, etc. If you are likely to inherit, you probably should keep paying and get the van as your inheritance--though the kicker there is that if the van is worth more than the remaining loan and your mother's estate is in debt, other creditors may try to get at the van in some way to pay the debts to them.


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