How to Buy a Car From a Deceased Person's Estate

Buying a car from a deceased person's estate is not much different for the purchaser than buying any used car. Most of the work falls to the estate's executor to ensure that the transfer is legal. In states such as North Dakota, you can be liable for sales taxes on vehicles you purchase from an estate. Your local tax assessor's office can tell you if you must pay sales tax on the purchase in your state.

Inspect the Car

A car can develop mechanical issues if it does not run for a period of time. Not only should you inspect the car but also request permission to have a mechanic inspect the car. While you can see surface damages, unless you have experience repairing and maintaining vehicles, you may not recognize internal problems that the car may have. If you or the mechanic find problems, negotiate with the executor on the price you agree to pay.

Confirm the Legality of the Sale

If the probate court is allowing the sale of the car before it clears an estate, the executor will have papers proving his right to sell the vehicle. Ask to see proof of the seller's authority to sell the car. Only the executor or named administrator has the authorization to sell items from an estate. The seller should have an order from the probate court, a death certificate and personal identification. Confirm with the probate court that the executor has court approval to sell the estate's assets and keep a copy of the death certificate for titling the car.

Compare the Title with the Other Paperwork

You must confirm that the vehicle belongs to the decedent. Match the vehicle identification number on the car to the number listed on the title and compare the name and address on the title to the information on the death certificate and other papers. If nothing matches, consult an attorney or the police before proceeding with the purchase.

Transfer the Title

To make the car legally yours, give the executor the money for the car and take the title to your local Department of Motor Vehicles or local tax assessor's office. The fee to transfer a title varies from location to location. For example, in Texas the fee ranges from $28 to $33 depending on the county, at the time of publication. You may also have to pay a service fee for the transfer. Remember to insure the car in your name according to the laws in your state.

references & resources