Alabama Title Transfer with a Deceased Owner.

Understanding Alabama Title Transfer with a Deceased Owner

1. Probate Process

  • Involvement of Probate Court: In many cases, the vehicle's title transfer must go through probate court, especially if the deceased owner's estate is subject to probate.
  • Probate Avoidance: In some instances, if the estate is small enough or otherwise qualifies, Alabama law may allow the transfer of the vehicle without full probate.

2. Required Documentation

  • Death Certificate: A copy of the deceased owner’s death certificate is required.
  • Last Will and Testament: If available, this document will dictate the distribution of the deceased’s assets, including the vehicle.
  • Letters of Administration or Testamentary: Issued by the probate court, this document authorizes an individual to act on behalf of the deceased’s estate.
  • Vehicle Title: The original vehicle title is necessary for transfer.

3. Transferring the Title

  • Completing the Title: The designated individual (executor or administrator) will sign the title on behalf of the deceased owner.
  • Buyer/Recipient Information: The new owner’s information must be filled out on the title.
  • Odometer Disclosure Statement: Required if the vehicle is less than ten years old.

4. Submitting to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)

  • Documentation Submission: Submit the completed title, death certificate, and other relevant documents to the Alabama DMV.
  • Payment of Fees: There will be a title transfer fee which varies by county.

5. Special Considerations

  • Joint Ownership: If the vehicle was jointly owned, the surviving owner may simply need to present the death certificate and the title for transfer.
  • No Will or Probate: If there is no will or probate, the process may follow Alabama’s laws of intestacy, involving a different set of forms and procedures.
  • Estate Taxes: Consider if there are any tax implications involved in the transfer.
  • Legal Advice: It’s often advisable to seek legal advice, especially in complex estates or disputes.

Section 40‐12‐260(7) b.1., Code of Alabama 1975 states

“A surviving spouse, desiring to operate a vehicle devolving from a deceased spouse, shall present an application for a certificate of title to the licensing official in his or her name within 30 days of obtaining ownership. The licensing official shall then transfer the license plate to the surviving spouse. If the motor vehicle is not subject to the provisions of the Alabama Uniform Certificate of Title and Antitheft Act (Section 32‐8‐1, et seq.), the surviving spouse shall provide the licensing official evidence that ownership has been conveyed to the surviving spouse.”

For motor vehicles subject to the Alabama Uniform Certificate of Title and Antitheft Act, the title document must accurately reflect the vehicle owner(s). When one owner becomes deceased, his/her ownership interest in the vehicle transfers to the estate if held (titled) by a single owner. If the vehicle is held (titled) jointly with two names as in the case of tenancy in common (John and Jane), the deceased’s interest devolves to the estate as a ½ interest. The death of John means the estate is the owner of ½ interest and the spouse holds ½ interest on her own separate from the estate. If the vehicle has a total value of $10,000, John’s estate owns $5,000 worth and Widow Jane owns only $5,000 worth. The title document must be amended in order to reflect the change in ownership (title). It cannot just remain as it was before the death of one of the owners.

If the vehicle is held (titled) jointly with two names as in the case of joint tenancy with rights of survivorship (John or Jane), the deceased’s interest devolves to the other joint owner. It does NOT go through the deceased’s estate. Jane becomes the 100% owner by operation of law immediately upon the death of John. Because John nor his estate no longer has any ownership of the vehicle, his name MUST be removed from the title and from the motor vehicle registration. Alabama Code Section 40‐12‐260(7) b.1., requires a change in the title and the motor vehicle registration.

When the transfer of title is warranted from the sale, delivery, or donation of a vehicle from a deceased owner, then the following guidelines may provide assistance:


Transferring a vehicle title after the owner’s death in Alabama requires careful attention to legal requirements and proper documentation. It’s a process that may involve the probate court, and understanding the specific steps and documents needed is crucial for a seamless transfer. Seeking legal advice in complex situations is recommended to ensure compliance with all state laws and regulations.

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