Now You Can Transfer Vehicles Upon Death Without Probate

The Arizona Legislature recently made it a little easier for residents to transfer ownership of their vehicles upon their death, regardless of the value of the vehicle.  Many people in the process of planning their Estate succession want to avoid “Probate” if at all possible.  Unfortunately, many individuals have been given the wrong impression that “going through Probate” means that the government is going to take a large portion of their hard-earned assets in taxes and fees and that it will be months, if not years, before assets are available to the beneficiaries of the Estate.  In reality, “Probate” means “to prove” the Will, and it is not an excessively expensive nor necessarily lengthy process.

In Arizona, there aren’t any State Inheritance or Estate Taxes and therefore there is no adversarial process with the State because the State is not taking “a piece” of the pie.  In many other states there are taxes that do take a percentage of the value of the estate and there can be disputes about the true value of assets requiring formal appraisals and sometimes Court Hearings.  Not so in Arizona, since the State imposes no such taxes.  Even so, Probate can delay the transfer of assets, particularly if there are numerous beneficiaries, some of whom that may be difficult to locate.

Trusts are often used to avoid Probate.  Other will alternatives include joint accounts, Beneficiary Deeds, and payable on death accounts.   (See other articles on this website for discussions on these various topics.)  Using the various available will alternatives, most assets could pass to beneficiaries immediately upon an individual’s death; however, one asset that usually still required probate was the decedent’s vehicle.  Usually a vehicle would not be titled in the name of a Trust, and the danger of adding the intended beneficiary as a joint owner was that the beneficiary, as joint owner, could be sued if the vehicle were involved in an accident.

Recently, the Legislature amended A.R.S. 28-2055(B) to allow the owner of a vehicle to add a beneficiary designation to his/her vehicle title.  The vehicle owner can fill out the Beneficiary Designation and have it notarized or sign it in front of a local Motor Vehicle Division Agent, pay a $4.00 fee, and then file the form with the agent.  The result will be that, upon the death of the owner, the beneficiary will immediately have ownership of the vehicle without the necessity of going through probate.  Note that adding a Beneficiary Designation does not prevent the vehicle from being sold or transferred by the owner and the beneficiary can be changed at any time. Also, the beneficiary assumes no legal responsibility for the vehicle until the title passes upon the death of the prior owner.

Beneficiary Designation Form

For questions on how to effectively title your assets in order to avoid probate, contact The Carroll Law Firm at (623)551-9366 and set up a free estate planning consultation.

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One Comment to “Now You Can Transfer Vehicles Upon Death Without Probate”

  1. This is a good thing. At least, it eases the process of transferring ownership of the decedent’s property into the hands of the heirs or beneficiaries

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