Title Transfer with a Deceased Owner
Section 40‐12‐260(7) b.1., Code of Alabama 1975 states,
“A surviving spouse, desiring to operate a vehicle devolving from a deceased spouse, shall present an application for a certificate of title to the licensing official in his or her name within 30 days of obtaining ownership. The licensing official shall then transfer the license plate to the surviving spouse. If the motor vehicle is not subject to the provisions of the Alabama Uniform Certificate of Title and Antitheft Act (Section 32‐8‐1, et seq.), the surviving spouse shall provide the licensing official evidence that ownership has been conveyed to the surviving spouse.”
For motor vehicles subject to the Alabama Uniform Certificate of Title and Antitheft Act, the title document must accurately reflect the vehicle owner(s). When one owner becomes deceased, his/her ownership interest in the vehicle transfers to the estate if held (titled) by a single owner. If the vehicle is held (titled) jointly with two names as in the case of tenancy in common (John and Jane), the deceased’s interest devolves to the estate as a ½ interest. The death of John means the estate is the owner of ½ interest and the spouse holds ½ interest on her own separate from the estate. If the vehicle has a total value of $10,000, John’s estate owns $5,000 worth and Widow Jane owns only $5,000 worth. The title document must be amended in order to reflect the change in ownership (title). It cannot just remain as it was before the death of one of the owners.
If the vehicle is held (titled) jointly with two names as in the case of joint tenancy with rights of survivorship (John or Jane), the deceased’s interest devolves to the other joint owner. It does NOT go through the deceased’s estate. Jane becomes the 100% owner by operation of law immediately upon the death of John. Because John nor his estate no longer has any ownership of the vehicle, his name MUST be removed from the title and from the motor vehicle registration. Alabama Code Section 40‐12‐260(7) b.1., requires a change in the title and the motor vehicle registration.
When the transfer of title is warranted from the sale, delivery, or donation of a vehicle from a deceased owner, then the following guidelines may provide assistance:
When An Estate Requires Probate:
1. Surrender the Alabama title, properly assigned to the new owner by the executor or executrix.
2. Provide a certified copy of the letters of testament regarding the vehicle. (If the estate requires probate and there is no will, then a certified copy of the probate proceedings or letters of administration may be provided).
3. Executor, or executrix, or administrator should sign the title assignment with the same name style as listed on the copy of the letters of testamentary.
When An Estate Does Not Require Probate:
1. Surrender the Alabama title, properly assigned to the new owner by the deceased owner’s next of kin.
2. Provide the completed State Form 5-6 (Affidavit for Assignment of Title For A Vehicle When Deceased Owner Dies Without A Will).
3. Provide a certified copy of the deceased owner’s death certificate.
4. The family member designated as “next of kin” should sign the title assignment with the same name style as listed on the State affidavit.
5. If there is a will, and it is not probated, then the deceased owner is considered to have died intestate.