Conway, AR asked in Estate Planning and Probate for Tennessee

Q: Would a probate be necessary for an heiress if her deceased father has only a $3000 vehicle in his name, no real estate,

No debt, only personal items. My husband has a bill of sale for a vehicle he bought from his best friend. His friend is elderly and has since passed away before he was able to locate and sign the title. My husband took possession of the vehicle after his friend's passing as he had paid the sale amount in full but now his friend's daughter, who is next of kin, is saying we need to return the vehicle so it can go through probate. Meanwhile, the vehicle is all his friend has in his name: no real estate, no debt, only collectable coins, knives and firearms. Does my husband need to return the vehicle when he has a signed Bill of Sale and what recourse would the daughter have if he did not return it? She hasn't spoken or retained a probate attorney as there is nothing to probate. My husband paid for the vehicle and wants to at least get the money paid returned to him or keep ownership of the vehicle as it is more sentimental and not worth but $3,000.

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2 Lawyer Answers
Anthony M. Avery
Anthony M. Avery
PREMIUM
Answered
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Knoxville, TN
  • Licensed in Tennessee

A: No probate possible with no assets. Let daughter try to file suit or probate it, where you would make a claim against the Estate. Title may be difficult, but a lost title application may suffice. You are far too worried about this.

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Nina Whitehurst
Nina Whitehurst
PREMIUM
Answered
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Crossville, TN
  • Licensed in Tennessee

A: It is not true that there is "nothing to probate". Your recitation of the facts states that there is a car that is still in the decedent's name. The title to the car will be in limbo until something is done. The manner in which title to a car is updated following the death of the title holder is called probate. If the car is indeed the ONLY property of the decedent's estate, then the decedent's daughter (assuming she is the decedent's sole heir at law) could get title to it transferred to her using a simplified small estate procedure. If you think she is willing to honor the sales transaction by taking title to the car and then transferring it to you, then that is the best way to proceed. It is less expensive than a full probate.

It is also not true that there are no debts. Your recitation of the facts states that the decedent owes the car to you. That is a debt of the decedent. You might be best served by opening a full probate in order to submit your claim to the car. Any interested party can open a probate. Unfortunately, this will be relatively expensive, involving court filing fees, attorney's fees, and a bond premium.

Although you seem to think this is or should be a simple matter, unfortunately, it is not. It you really want to secure the car that is owed to you, you really should hire a Tennessee probate attorney to assist you.

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