Can You Sell the Car of a Deceased Person in Florida?

The experience of losing a beloved family member or friend is a deeply emotional and demanding event that eventually touches the lives of all individuals. In addition to the inevitable sorrow and the mourning process, this loss invariably ushers in a series of pragmatic and legal obligations that must be tended to, including the sale of a car that belonged to the deceased. These responsibilities are frequently both numerous and intricate, with one of the most complex tasks involving the management of the assets left in the wake of the departed individual, a task that encompasses the disposition of their vehicle.

In Florida, as in most other states, the process of selling a car that belonged to a deceased person involves various legal and procedural steps. Understanding and successfully navigating this process is essential to ensure a smooth vehicle ownership transition and fulfill the deceased person’s final wishes or legal obligations.

The emotional weight of losing a loved one is compounded by the practical considerations that follow, including the need to address their financial affairs. It is a time when families must come together to support one another and work through the legal requirements associated with the deceased person’s estate. Dealing with assets like a car may seem like a small part of the process, but it can be fraught with complexities and regulations.

This article aims to guide how to navigate the process of selling a car of a deceased person in Florida.

A high angle shot of a car

Identify the Executor or Personal Representative

The initial stage in the process of selling a vehicle owned by a deceased individual in Florida involves the identification of the executor or personal representative responsible for managing the deceased person’s estate. Typically, this individual is either designated in the deceased person’s will or appointed by a court of law. The executor or personal representative assumes the role of overseeing the assets of the deceased person, which includes the management of the vehicle.


Obtain a Death Certificate

Before you can proceed with selling a car of a deceased person, you will need to obtain multiple copies of the deceased person’s death certificate. These certificates are essential for proving the person’s passing and for various legal and administrative purposes.


Confirm Ownership

Verify the ownership of the vehicle before selling a car of a deceased person. In Florida, this typically involves checking the vehicle’s title. The surviving owner may automatically assume full ownership if the car is owned jointly. In cases where the deceased person was the sole owner, the executor or personal representative must transfer ownership through the probate process.


Probate Process

If the deceased person’s estate needs to go through probate, you must follow the appropriate legal steps. Probate is a court-supervised process where the deceased person’s assets are distributed, and any outstanding debts are settled. During this process, the court will determine who can sell the vehicle. If there is a will, the court will follow the instructions outlined in the will. If there is no will (intestate), the court will appoint an administrator.


Appraise the Vehicle

Appraising the vehicle to determine its fair market value is an excellent practice before selling a car of a deceased person. This will help you set an appropriate selling price and may be required for tax purposes.


Notify Interested Parties

Notify interested parties, such as beneficiaries and heirs, of your intention of selling a car of a deceased person. Depending on the circumstances, their consent or approval may be required.


Clear Outstanding Liens

Ensure that there are no outstanding liens or loans on the vehicle before selling a car of a deceased person. These must be paid off or cleared before selling the car.


Selling the Car

Selling a car of a deceased person once all the legal and administrative steps have been completed is far easier. This typically involves advertising the vehicle, finding a buyer, and completing the sale with the necessary paperwork.


Title Transfer

You must transfer the title if the vehicle was held solely in the deceased person’s name. This requires completing the appropriate forms, providing proof of the executor’s or personal representative’s authority, and paying any required fees.


Bill of Sale

A bill of sale should be provided to the buyer, documenting the sale of the vehicle. It’s a legally binding document that protects both parties and helps to establish the transaction’s details.


Notify the DMV

Inform the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DMV) about the sale of the vehicle and complete the necessary paperwork to transfer the title to the new owner.


Distribution of Proceeds

After the sale is complete, the proceeds from the sale should be included in the estate’s assets and distributed according to the terms of the will or Florida’s intestacy laws if there was no will.


After the Sale: What Happens?

Settlement of Debts: As part of the probate process, ensure that any outstanding debts and liabilities of the deceased person’s estate are settled. This may include paying off loans, credit card debts, and medical bills using the proceeds from the sale of the vehicle or other assets.

Tax Implications: Be aware of any tax implications that may arise from the sale of the vehicle. There may be estate or inheritance taxes in Florida, but these typically apply to larger estates. Consult with a tax professional or attorney to ensure state and federal tax regulations compliance.

Record-Keeping: Keep detailed records of all transactions and paperwork related to the sale of the vehicle. This includes the bill of sale, title transfer documentation, receipts, and any correspondence with the DMV or interested parties.

Final Accounting: After the probate process, the executor or personal representative must provide a final accounting to the probate court. This document outlines all financial transactions related to the estate, including the sale of the vehicle.

Distribute Assets: After the resolution of all outstanding debts, tax obligations, and expenses, and the successful finalization of the vehicle’s sale, the remaining assets can be allocated to the beneficiaries in alignment with the stipulations outlined in the will or as dictated by Florida’s intestacy laws.

Closing the Estate: After all the necessary legal and administrative steps have been taken, the estate can be officially closed, and the executor or personal representative can be discharged from their duties.


Key Takeaways

Selling a car owned by a deceased person in Florida involves legal and administrative steps. It is advisable to consult with an attorney or seek guidance from the probate court to ensure that the process is carried out correctly and following Florida’s specific laws and regulations.

Following the proper procedures allows you to navigate this challenging time with clarity and legality.

It’s important to note that the process of selling a car owned by a deceased person in Florida can be intricate, and the specific steps may vary depending on the circumstances and the estate’s value.

Consulting with an attorney specializing in estate law and probate can be immensely helpful in navigating this process smoothly and ensuring full compliance with Florida’s legal requirements. This legal guidance can help ease the burden on the deceased person’s loved ones during a challenging time and ensure that the process is handled correctly and following the law.

Call Junkyard Dog today if you need to sell the car of a deceased person and would like to know more as to how we can assist you. 

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