Can executor authorize beneficiary to use decedent’s car while estate is being settled or transfer title as partial disbursement?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Can executor authorize beneficiary to use decedent’s car while estate is being settled or transfer title as partial disbursement?

I am 59 years old and have provided full-time, live-in care for my father for several years until his recent death. I had legal and medical power of attorney, and managed all of his household, medical, and financial affairs. My brother is the executor of the living Will, which directs that all assets remaining after expenses be disbursed among the 4 adult children. The house has been sold for $142,500 mortgages total $90,000, and I have to be out in 2 weeks. I have no money or income, as I have been taking care of my father. I have tried to find employment in my previous field office administration but have been told I have been out of the field for 9 years. I have agencies interested in hiring me as an elderly companion, however only if my car has A/C, so I can transport elderly clients to medical appointments, etc. which mine doesn’t. Yet, my father’s car does and it is just sitting unused in the driveway. In addition, driving in AZ in the summer heat is injurious to my health. I had heart failure last Sept that left major permanent damage to the left ventricle and the heat places greater strain on my heart and blood pressure. I also have GERD, COPD, a gall bladder that needs to be removed, and a blood clot in my heart. I have no income and nowhere to go except the ability to camp out on my daughter’s couch for a couple of weeks. The house, car, and 10k insurance policy are the only assets. There are no known creditors. The notices to creditors have been published, the final one published about 2 weeks ago, so creditors have about another 4 months to file a claim against the estate. The other beneficiaries have agreed to let me have my father’s car, counting its blue book value $3,800 as part of my share of the estate. If I were able to have the car’s title transferred to me or even be allowed to use the car, I would be able to more easily obtain employment and exert less stress on my heart. Since the estate has little value it will go through informal probate rather than the formal probate process. Can the executor legally allow me use of the vehicle now instead of having to wait until the end of the year or longer?

Asked on July 14, 2017 under Estate Planning, Arizona


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Yes, the executor has the legal authority to let you (or anyone) use one of the assets of the estate if it is in the interest of the estate and/or the beneficiaries. Since you are a beneficiary and the other beneficiaries do not object, he can let you do this. He probably should have you sign an agreement to pay some of the car costs--maybe all your gas and part of the insurance--so that way, the other beneficiares do not incur any costs due to your use, and you do not get some inappropriate gain over them, but that's only a suggestion: as long as the other beneficiaries are on-board with this (though he should get their consent in writing, to protect himself), he can let you use the car without any payments.

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