1478796506957Most Americans have one or more vehicles, but what will happen with them if you pass away?
The most common type of vehicle ownership is joint ownership. With joint ownership, if something happens to one joint owner, the other becomes sole owner. The pros and cons of joint vehicle ownership are the same as with other assets such as houses or bank accounts. We have the benefits such as ease of administration (usually presenting a death certificate to the proper parties to take the deceased joint owner’s name off of the asset). We also have a few disadvantages such as exposure to crnning process is still simple because of the probate exemption properties of vehicles. Unlike real estate, a vehicle owned in Utah is exempt from the probate process so long as the total number of vehicles, boats, trailers, or semitrailers owned by the deceased person does not exceed four. There is an additional requirement that the entire estate subject teditors of all joint owners and potential force-of-sale by a joint owner. The nice thing about vehicles is that the value is usually much less than that of real estate or bank accounts, so the risks of joint ownership do not outweigh the ease of administration that comes with joint ownership. Estate planning for a jointly-owned vehicle in this regard is already complete as long as the other joint owner is the intended recipient of the vehicle.
For vehicles with only one living owner, the estate planning process is still simple because of the probate exemption properties of vehicles. Unlike real estate, a vehicle owned in Utah is exempt from the probate process so long as the total number of vehicles, boats, trailers, or semitrailers owned by the deceased person does not exceed four. There is an additional requirement that the entire estate subject to administration other than those vehicles is not worth more than $100,000. In these kinds of cases, the person inheriting the boat, vehicle, or trailer need only present this form linked here at the DMV along with a death certificate.
If you have a Will in Utah, odds are your Will authorizes the use of a personal property memorandum. If so, you can simply designate the intended recipient of your vehicle upon your death in that simple form that your attorney provided with your Will. That person will inherit the vehicle using the form linked above or as part of the probate administration process, if required.
If you have a Trust, a similar memorandum to that in a Will was likely authorized with a form attached. Some attorneys may advise clients to re-title vehicles into the Trust’s name. However, if the vehicle will be exempt from administration as outlined above, this is likely an unnecessary step. A simple small estate affidavit will suffice for most estates, but be sure to check with your Trust attorney to be sure that your estate will not be subject to administration. By avoiding the re-titling process, you can greatly reduce the hassle associated with some auto insurers.


This article is adapted from Tyler Melling’s upcoming book: Estate Planning for Utah’s Middle Class.
Tyler Melling is an estate planning attorney licensed in Utah, an adjunct professor of estate planning and probate law at Southern Utah University, and the author of The Utah Uniform Probate Code: A Quick-Reference Guide for Practitioners and Students