What Happens to a Deceased’s Car When They Die?

A motor vehicle is a chattel, and you don’t have to wait until a grant of probate or letters of administration have been issued to transfer a car to another owner or to sell it.

You will need the owner’s death certificate and legal proof of your entitlement to sell the vehicle on behalf of the deceased ’s Estate. This could be a copy of the Will naming you as Executor or a Solicitor’s letter confirming your entitlement to deal with the proceeds of the Estate under the Intestacy Rules. If there is more than one Executor of the Will, all named executors with all the required personal proofs of identification must be presented at the time of sale prior to any agreed payment being made.

If the deceased owned the car outright, you can transfer ownership by contacting the DVLA and then either sell it on or continue to run it. It is important to make sure car insurance is still valid and you will need new vehicle excise duty (VED).

If you decide to keep the car, you will need to contact the DVLA to tell them the current owner has died – and include the driving licence with a letter detailing your relationship to the deceased, the date they died and their name, address and date of birth.

If you are a family member and keeping the car, you must tell DVLA that you are the new keeper of the vehicle. You can also register the car as off the road (SORN) – if you want to keep it in a garage for the time being and not pay tax. Once it’s in your name you’re free to sell the car on to a private buyer, dealer or online car buying site.

If you want to keep the car and there is outstanding finance on it, you might be able to take over payments by contacting the finance company. If you want to sell the car and there is finance on it, then you will not have to go through the process of selling it as the vehicle still belongs to the finance company. In this instance, the car will be taken off you and often sold at auction to cover the outstanding loan. Any shortfall will need to be covered – normally by the deceased’s estate. Depending on the contract, you may be able to hand the car back without paying any fees under ‘halves and thirds’ rules if a certain repayment amount has already been met.

The half rule gives the purchaser the option to voluntarily terminate the agreement once. This option is available once half of the total amount payable has been made provided arrears are up to date. The third rule gives the purchaser further protection such that if one third of the total amount is paid, a court order would be required to repossess the goods in the event of a delinquent account. If one third of the total amount has not been paid, the goods can be repossessed by anyone, at any time.

If the car has little commercial or sentimental value, you may want to scrap it. If you go down this route, you must hand over the vehicle log book with the vehicle, keeping the notification of sale (V5C/3), and inform the DVLA that you have taken the vehicle to an authorised treatment facility.

Contact our Private Client Solicitors

We can assist you with all aspects of the administration of a deceased’s estate and can help you to make a Will that sets out what you want to happen to your assets (money, property, investments and possessions) as well as who you want to care for your young children after you have passed away. Please contact our private client solicitors on 020 8240 9018 or via the enquiry form on our website.