Generally, assets subject to Probate proceedings include those owned in the individual name of the decedent. For example, real property in your sole name is subject to Probate. Other examples: bank/investment accounts in your sole name, life insurance policies that have your estate as the beneficiary, personal property, and so on. There is one exception related to vehicles: if you own motor vehicles with a total value not exceeding $60,000 and these would have been the only Probate asset, then your next closest kin may transfer them without opening a Probate estate proceeding. MCL 257.236(2).
Transferring a vehicle at death in Michigan can come with a variety of different steps depending on who the surviving heirs are. Here’s a list of common scenarios outlined by the Michigan Secretary of State:
- Surviving Spouse. If there is a surviving spouse, he/she is the next of kin who will receive the vehicle but first, he/she must complete the form to transfer the vehicle. Even if it will be transferred to another immediate family member, this form still needs to be completed. After the transfer, the license plate may remain on the vehicle.
- No Surviving Spouse; Surviving Siblings. If there is no surviving spouse, and there are several closest next-of-kin (e.g., multiple brothers or sisters), all share an equal inheritance. Those with no interest in the vehicle must complete a certification statement to this effect. If they wish, the next-of-kin may add a co-owner at the time of titling. If the co-owner is not an immediate family relative of the deceased or is not the spouse of the closest next-of-kin who is inheriting the vehicle, the co-owner is liable for use tax.
- Probate Proceedings. If the estate is being probated, the Personal Representative assigns the deceased’s title. If assigned to the deceased’s spouse or a family member, that person presents the title and a copy of the Personal Representative’s Letter of Authority at a Secretary of State branch office to title the vehicle in their name.
- Joint Title. If the vehicle is jointly titled in your name and the deceased’s name with “Full Rights to Survivor” printed on it, then all that is needed to transfer the vehicle into your name is the title and a copy of the death certificate. It does not matter if the deceased’s estate is being probated.
Contact me if you have any questions.