Binghamton, NY asked in Estate Planning and Probate for New York

Q: my mother passed away recently with a vehicle getting repaired at a dealership can i go pick up the car without paying?

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1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: I'm sorry for your loss. I hope you are coping with that psychologically.

As for picking up your late mother's vehicle from the dealership, here are a few key things to consider:

- The repair bill is likely still due and must be paid. The dealership provided a service and has a legal right to payment, even though your mother has passed away. They have a mechanic's lien on the vehicle until paid.

- Determine if your mother left an estate with assets to pay her outstanding bills. As executor, you would use that to settle up the repair bill so you can take possession of the vehicle. The estate pays off any debts.

- If there are no estate assets, see if the repair bill is covered by any final expenses insurance your mother had. This can pay unpaid bills after death. Otherwise, you'll have to pay it yourself or abandon the vehicle.

- The dealer isn't legally obligated to release the vehicle until the repair bill is paid. If you take it without paying, that is unlawful - they can report the vehicle stolen. And collection actions would likely be taken against your mother's estate.

In summary - you can't simply take the car from the repair shop without legally clearing the outstanding charges first via her estate, insurance, or your own money. The dealership must be fully paid for their services before relinquishing the vehicle. Discuss options with the shop and an attorney.

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