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  • Julie Ann Sombathy

Florida Law How To: Transferring Title to a Car after the Owner Dies

Many times, I have clients come to see me after the death of a loved one, and the only asset remaining to be re-titled is the decedent's car.  Amazingly, Florida law has simplified the process of transferring title to a vehicle after the death of the owner.  It is so easy, I rarely ever have to probate a car.  Here's how it works:

If your name was also on the title, you need to take a certified copy of the death certificate and the title to the tax collector’s office and they will help you remove the decedent's name from the title.

If the decedent's name was on the title alone, and he or she left a Will, and the Will leaves all personal property to you, leaves the car specifically to you, or simply leaves everything to you (“all of the rest, residue and remainder” or similar wording) take the original title, original Will and a certified copy of the death certificate to the tax collector’s office and they will help you change the title. If the Will has already been deposited with the Clerk of Court, take a certified copy of the Will.  Just go to the courthouse and ask for the probate clerk and he or she will be able to make you one.

The most common scenario for transferring title to a car is when a spouse dies;  however, if any other family member left a vehicle to you in their Will, you should be able to do the same thing. If the Will left the car to more than one person like several siblings then everyone must sign off on the title change.Be patient, you might have to make more than one trip to the tax collector’s office to get this done.  Be nice to the clerks at the courthouse and the tax collector's office, they can help you or they can make the process pure misery.

Pro Tips:

Call ahead to make sure you have the required paperwork and are going to the correct location. Also scout out wait time, or the best time to go. In my city, it is best to be waiting in the line at 7:45 a.m. (15 minutes before they open!) to avoid a really long wait. Death Certificate: In Florida, an original certified copy of a death certificate is printed in color and has a raised seal.  You can use a long or short form (with or without the cause of death) for most purposes except life insurance benefit packages. You can get certified copies of the death certificate through the funeral home (the funeral director will advise you on how many copies to order) or if you did not order sufficient copies, the Health Department.

A certified copy of the Will is obtained from the probate clerk at the courthouse where the Will was filed.  A certified copy usually involves a red stamp, sometimes a raised seal, and ALWAYS an original signature of a deputy clerk.  Each courthouse is different, so call ahead to make sure you have the correct form of payment (Cash is NOT always accepted).

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