Asked in Consumer Law and Probate for Michigan

Q: michigan. my mom is only one on car title. she died dec 2022. it's bequethed to me in will. no probate. everything joint

ly owned except car. i'm executor/personal rep of will. i've been driving it and paying the car loan and ins monthly since dec 2022. tabs are now expired. everything still in her name. lien on car. can't transfer title, not enough $$ for pay off. neighbor says i can register the car, get new plate/tabs without transferring title. is this true? how?

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1 Lawyer Answer
Kenneth V Zichi
Kenneth V Zichi
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Fowlerville, MI
  • Licensed in Michigan

A: Well -- you COULD lie and claim to be your deceased mother, and renew the plates, but then you have to also lie to the insurance company and risk getting caught in insurance fraud .... etc. I'd suggest that isn't such a good idea.

Can you get new tabs for the car without transferring the title? Not that I know of. The only person who can license the car is the owner. You become the owner by transferring the title.

You need to figure out 1) do you want the car and then answer these questions:

a) how much is owed and how can I get that money?

b) how do I just return the car and let it become my mom's (nonexistent) estate's problem.

Allow me to provide the way I'd analyze this: (And this is predicated on the assumption that there IS NO OTHER property in the estate!)

Situation A: There is $25,000 owed on the car and it's 'worth' $12,000 on a used car lot. Dump the car and go buy a used one you can afford. The 'deficiency' becomes the lien holder's issue and you don't need to worry about it.

Situation B: There is $10,000 owed and the car is worth $25,000 on the used market AND you can afford $10k. Figure out how to borrow $10k and pay it off. Get the lien release and insurance and then register the car at the SOS in your name as the sole heir (you don't need probate for that) and smile.

Situation C: Same as B but you CANNOT afford 10k. See answer to situation A -- yes you're 'losing' money but if you can't afford it you're not really losing anything! You're saving yourself a headache.

And yes, you've already 'sunk' money into paying for someone else's car. In essence -- you 'leased' the car -- you've got nothing to show for it but you had the use of the car. Get out of that situation and get into something more sustainable long-term.

Not sure where to go? Seek the counsel of a licensed local attorney. They can provide alternate ideas.

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