In Texas, the process for transferring a motor vehicle after the owner's death depends on whether the decedent left a will and who are the inheriting individuals. Either the executor or an heir through intestacy must submit specific documents to the decedent's county tax office before receiving a new title in their name.
Probate and Motor Vehicle Transfers in Texas
How the process for transferring ownership of a decedent’s assets is carried out depends on whether the decedent left a will and if their estate is probated. A will may dictate who the deceased's vehicle will go to.
For example, it may go to one individual in particular or it may be part of the residuary estate. In that instance, it will be divided between a specific group of people.
Texas Probate Process
If the deceased’s estate goes through probate, the court names an executor and requires Letters Testamentary as proof that the executor has taken control of the estate.
Once appointed, the executor will inventory the decedent’s assets, make sure creditors and taxes are paid, and distribute the remaining estate assets to the beneficiaries, according to the will and Texas law.
Texas Intestacy and Vehicle Transfer
If the deceased did not leave a will, they died intestate, meaning their assets go to their closest relatives or family members, according to Texas Probate Code. An estate can avoid probate only if there is no will and the total value is $75,000 or less, excluding the deceased’s homestead real estate.
For estates probated under intestacy rules, instead of an executor, the court appoints a personal administrator. The personal administrator has mostly the same responsibilities as an executor, including the distribution of the estate's assets.
If the estate is not probated, an heirship affidavit is required to identify the decedent’s heirs.
Documents Needed to Transfer Vehicle Ownership
Most of the documents that an executor, personal administrator or heir will need are the same, with a few exceptions. To apply for a vehicle title and/or registration, certain documents must be completed and submitted to the county tax office. Required documents include:
- Vehicle title.
- Proof that loan has been fully paid (original release of lien).
- Title and/or Registration Application (Form 130-U).
- Proof of the authority to transfer ownership. For probated estates, original or certified copy of Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration; for non-probate estates, an Affidavit of Heirship for a Motor Vehicle (Form VTR-262).
- Affidavit of Motor Vehicle Gift Transfer, required when vehicle is inherited between eligible parties. It must be signed and notarized, unless signed before a county tax office employee. Donor or recipient must submit the affidavit in person.
- Applicant's valid driver’s license or federal or state-issued photo ID.
- Proof of valid car insurance, required for vehicle registration.
- Proof of a valid Texas vehicle inspection, required for vehicle registration.
- Applicable registration fees (vary by county tax office).
Once the applicant has filled out the necessary paperwork, they take the documents and fee to the county tax office in the location where the decedent lived at the time of death. It may take up to 20 days for the tax assessor to process the documents for a new title application, depending on how busy the county tax office is.
Vehicle Inheritance and Texas Gift Tax
These vehicle inheritance transactions are subject to a $10 gift tax:
- Inheritance of unencumbered (free of creditor claims or liens) motor vehicle according to the will of a deceased person or via an Affidavit of Heirship for a Motor Vehicle. If estate has an executor as the donor, they’ll complete an Affidavit of Motor Vehicle Gift Transfer.
- Vehicle transfer from the deceased owner’s estate to the surviving spouse. (Spouse’s death ends the community estate).
- Vehicle transfer to surviving owners if car was owned by at least two parties. Survivors must file Rights of Survivorship Ownership Agreement for a Motor Vehicle (Form VTR-122).
- Transfer of a vehicle to a testamentary or revocable trust beneficiary, according to the specific trust’s provisions. Trustee signs an Affidavit of Motor Vehicle Gift Transfer as the donor.
Inherited Vehicles and Liens in Texas
If the deceased person’s heir assumes responsibility for a debt or gives other consideration to the estate, they must pay a motor vehicle tax. Standard presumptive value (SPV) procedures can also come into play, which typically apply in a private party transaction.
In this instance, the buyer is responsible for the amount of motor vehicle tax based on the total consideration (sales price), or 80 percent of the car’s SPV. The deceased’s estate may owe tax on a vehicle not titled and registered previously and on which there is no previous state tax payment
Vehicle Transfers by Decedent’s Heirs and Gift Taxes
When the heir transfers a deceased person’s vehicle to another individual, two transactions occur that are taxable. The heir who transferred the vehicle owes either a gift tax or a motor vehicle use tax when inheriting the car from the estate.
The second transaction requires payment of a motor vehicle use tax by the recipient, unless the new owner getting the vehicle is qualifies for the $10 gift tax.
- TXDMV: County Tax Offices
- TXDMV: What Do I Need to Transfer Ownership From a Deceased Owner?
- TXDMV: Application for Texas Title and/or Registration
- TXDMV: Affidavit of Heirship for a Motor Vehicle
- Texas Comptroller: Motor Vehicle Tax Guide
- TXDMV: Rights of Survivorship Ownership Agreement for a Motor Vehicle
- Texas Comptroller: Standard Presumptive Value (SPV) on Private-Party Transactions
- NOLO: Texas Probate: An Overview
- Legal Beagle: How to File for Probate in Texas
- Legal Beagle: Texas Inheritance Laws Without a Will
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.