If there’s one thing that you really should be doing, it’s estate planning for vehicles. It’s expensive to take just a vehicle through probate.

Here’s the long and short of the vehicle transfer information. If a person dies with cars, pickup trucks, or motorcycles titled in their own name, a surviving spouse may transfer these vehicles to the surviving spouse’s name as long as the combined value of the vehicles does not exceed $65,000. This is only available to a surviving spouse. If an unmarried person dies with vehicles titled in their own name, the only way to sell them or transfer them to someone else is through probate court.

If a vehicle is titled in the name of joint owners, the surviving owner can take the vehicle to their own name outside of probate.

There is a way to avoid the probate process for vehicles, without a joint owner, but there must be some proactive work done ahead of time. Any individual vehicle owner can designate a transfer on death beneficiary for their vehicle title. To do this, the owner must take their current title to the local clerk of courts auto title office. The clerk issues a new title where the owner’s name and the transfer on death beneficiary’s name are printed. The beneficiary may be one individual, multiple individuals, a trust, a business entity (like a corporation or LLC), a charity, etc. It’s very important to understand how the process works. The beneficiary’s name must be printed on the new title. The beneficiary is in the state’s registration system for the vehicle. This is not something that a vehicle owner simply writes the beneficiary’s name on the back of the title and puts it back in their file cabinet. The beneficiary must be in the state’s database with their name printed on the new title.

It’s important to do estate planning for vehicles. You don’t want just a car going through probate.