A car title is a document that serves as proof of ownership. Your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) can issue this document, and it contains identifying information that specifies the car’s make, model, and vehicle identification number (VIN). The car title should have your name on it to prove ownership, but what if you want to share ownership with someone else?
You can put two or more names on a car title. Two or more names on a car title can signify shared ownership of the vehicle if you declare multiple owners upon issuing the car title. However, you cannot add names to the current car title once the car title has been issued.
There are some legal technicalities to consider when a car title has more than one name. This article discusses some things you need to know about joint ownership of a car, such as what happens if one of the owners dies, who is authorized to sell the vehicle, and if you can transfer ownership to another person. Keep reading to find out.
How Do You Get a Car Title?
Getting a car title requires a visit to your local DMV office, where you and your co-owners will need to fill out some paperwork and submit requirements to get the process started. Some of the documents you will need to file for a car title are listed as follows:
- Proof of identity: This can either be a driver’s license or a passport.
- Proof of ownership: A bill of sale is proof that you purchased the vehicle.
- Proof of insurance coverage that meets state minimum requirements: State minimum requirements vary by state.
- Application for a title: You will need to fill this out, and it needs to be signed by other co-owners.
- Applicable sales, tag, title, and registration fees
Overall title fees vary from state to state but range between $5 to $150.
Types of Ownership
A car title is issued by the state department of motor vehicles (DMV). If you took out a loan, the car title remains in the lender’s possession until you have paid it. Until the loan is settled, the lender’s name might also be included as a co-owner.
Two options are usually available when declaring multiple owners on a car title. However, some states have a third option which I will include in this list:
- Joint Tenancy
- Tenancy in Common
- Tenancy in Entirety
Joint tenancy is characterized by survivorship. That means that if one of the co-owners dies, the other gets the car. When you file for your title, you’ll need to use the proper conjunction between your and the other co-owners names. The identifying conjunction used in joint tenancies is “or” between the owners’ names.
Tenancy in Common
On the other hand, tenancy in common does not entitle either co-owner to survivorship. If one owner dies, the car will become part of their estate, which means that the deceased will pass it on to whoever is named the heir by an Administrator or Executor of the Probate Court. Joint ownership is signified by the conjunction and between names of owners.
Tenancy in Entirety
Tenancy in Entirety is for married people. In this type of ownership, the co-owners are treated as one person. Like with joint tenancy, if one of the owners dies, the vehicle still belongs to the other owner. So, if you file for tenancy in entirety, the car won’t count as part of either person’s estate if one dies.
What Happens if One of the Car’s Joint Owners Die?
What happens to a car if one owner dies will depend on the ownership agreed upon between co-owners. In a joint tenancy, ownership passes to the surviving co-owner upon the death of a co-owner.
If one of the car’s joint owners dies, it will pass to the other owner or become part of the deceased’s estate. The car’s owner will depend on how you file for co-ownership when you get your car’s title.
Upon the death of a co-owner, the Probate Court will appoint a fiduciary (also known as an administrator or executor) to convey the deceased owner’s interests. If the deceased co-owner names an heir before their death, the fiduciary will oversee the transfer of the car ownership to the heir.
In the state of California, for example, ownership may be transferred by the executor with Letters Testamentary, Letters of Administration, or an Affidavit for Transfer Without Probate California Titled Vehicle or Vessels Only (REG 5) form.
Changing the Title
Regardless of the type of ownership, whether survivorship applies, you must change the car title to reflect the new owners if one person passes away. Different states have different processes for these, which may vary depending on the type of ownership. There may be fees to pay depending on where you live.
How To Add a Name to a Car Title
Anytime the owner of a vehicle changes, you’ll have to change the title. Since a car title establishes ownership, adding a person’s name to a title grants them equal rights to the vehicle.
The process of adding a name to a car title is relatively straightforward. Guidelines, rules, and fees may differ from state to state. It might be good to check out your local DMV’s website before popping up for an appointment to ensure that you show up with all the documents you will need.
An important thing to keep in mind is that adding a name to a car title makes that person a co-owner, which means they are also required to have car insurance to provide financial protection against bodily injury or damage to the vehicle.
Can Ownership Be Transferred to Another Person?
Ownership can be transferred to another person. In a tenancy in joint ownership, the signatures of all owners are required to transfer ownership. However, if there is no joint tenancy and you are selling your vehicle, only one owner’s signature is required to transfer ownership.
The only exception to this rule is when you have a tenancy in common. In that case, the executor of the deceased’s estate will be in charge of signing over the car title to the heir.
More than one or two names are allowed on a car title to signify joint ownership between multiple parties. Who assumes ownership in the event of a co-owner’s death depends on the type of ownership entered upon by co-owners and if a written will exists to name an heir to the deceased co-owner’s interest.
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