How to sell a car directly from an estate

Learn how to sell a car directly from an estate.
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How to sell a car directly from an estate

Jenna Mendelsohn
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As the Executor, Administrator, or Personal Representative of an estate, you have a legal obligation to adhere to the laws in place to safeguard the heirs and possessions of a deceased person, including their home, collectibles, and vehicles. However, if the car is in the deceased’s name alone, you first have to get appropriate legal authority to take possession of it prior to selling the vehicle.

If there is an existing will, the will must first go through Probate to obtain Letters Testamentary (known as an Executor’s Certificate in certain states) to gain legal authority to take possession of the vehicle.

If no will exists, one must still go through the appropriate court to obtain Letters of Administration to be authorized to take control of and distribute the vehicle.

Once you have the authority to sell the vehicle, you must complete the Assignment of Ownership section on the reverse side of the Certificate of Title. This section must include the full name and address of the buyer as well as the agreed-upon price of the vehicle. Complete the top portion on the back of the Certificate of the Title as pictured below and leave the rest of the sections blank.

You can use the below example of how to complete it:

Here is an example, for illustration purposes, of the specific way you must complete the back of the Title form to effectuate a sale from the estate.

**Note, the buyer’s full name and address needs to be filled in and the amount the buyer is paying to purchase the vehicle.

**If there was a previously existing car loan on the title document but the loan is fully paid off, you must attach a Notice of Security Interest Filing or a Release of Lien letter from the loan company on their letterhead. If no loan exists for the vehicle, write “none ” in the lien information section.

You will not need to go to your local DMV, but the buyer will.

To make the buyer’s life easier when they go, please give the Buyer the following:

  • The certificate of title with the underside completed as listed above.
  • A copy of your letters testamentary/letters of administration.
  • Original death certificate (if they don't have the death on file already).
  • If there is a lien and it has been paid off- the notice of security interest filing or a release of lien letter from lienholder on their letterhead as discussed above. If no lien, write “none” in the lien section.
  • If a 2014 vehicle or newer, you need a notarized bill of sale.

The buyer will then go to their local DMV, and will need the items listed above, plus the following:

  • If the car is not sold to a spouse, parent or child of the deceased:
  • A certificate of safety inspection. This certificate must be presented with the request to transfer ownership.
  • New tags.
  • NOTE: A title fee (usually around $100) applies to any buyer other than a spouse.
  • If the car is less than 7 years old, in states like MD there is a 6% excise tax on a sale to a third party.  


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