How to transfer a car title when a person is deceased?

UPDATED: Oct 26, 2011

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How to transfer a car title when a person is deceased?

My mother passed away 2 years ago and she had no Will or estate. She only had an old car which I have driven since and repaired. The title was never transferred to me. My brother came and took the car out of my driveway in the middle of the night. I took the plate off the car, dropped the insurance and sent the plate back to the Department of Transportation. I found out yesterday that my brother went to a notary service and transferred the title in his name, stating that he was the only surviving sibling and signed a sworn statement which isn’t true. Is this fraud?

Asked on October 26, 2011 under Estate Planning, Pennsylvania


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

In order to properly transfer title to anything from someone who has passed away to a beneficiary you need to go to the probate court in the county in which the person resided a the time of their death and file the appropriate paperwork.  There has to be a fiduciary - a personal representative - appointed in order to be able to legally execute the necessary documents for transfer.  Now, the car is neither yours nor your brothers.  It belongs to the estate and if it is only the two of you that remain then you inherit the estate equally under the law.  I am 99,99% sure of that even though I am not admitted in Pennsylvaniaia.  So although your brother  had no right to transfer the title you had no right to use the car as your own for the last two years either.  Only until one of you is appointed to act on behalf of the estate can you do anything to correct the transfer.  Good luck.

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