How to Transfer Automobiles without Probate in Mississippi

How to Transfer Automobiles without Probate in Mississippi

I get a bunch of e-mails from people who want to know where to start with Mississippi probate.  Many of them have not considered whether probate is really required.

As I've mentioned in my discussion of how to determine whether Mississippi probate is necessary, so much depends on what assets the decedent owned, where they are located, and how they are titled.

Every once in a while I get a call from someone with a deceased friend or family member that had no assets other than an automobile.  Sometimes they have been told that they need to go through probate so that they can get clear title to the automobile.  But this isn't always the case.

The Title Bureau for the Mississippi Department of Revenue has a little-known procedure for transferring a decedent's automobile that is titled in Mississippi without the need for probate.  To take advantage of this procedure, the decedent's closest relatives ("next of kin") must file an affidavit with the Mississippi Department of Revenue that contains the following information:

  1. The decedent's name, date of death, and the VIN, year, make, model, mileage, and title number of the vehicle that the decedent owned at the time of death.
  2. A sworn statement that no will was probated and no administrator, executor or other personal representative has been appointed to administer the decedent's estate.
  3. Whether the decedent was married or had children.
  4. The surviving relatives ("next of kin") of the decedent.
  5. The name of the person to who m the next of kin want the automobile to go to.

This information is all found in the form Affidavit When Owner Dies Without a Will, which is promulgated by the Mississippi Department of Revenue.

I sometimes get asked about whether this procedure is available if the decedent had a valid Last Will and Testament.  This question usually comes up when the decedent had a valid Last Will and Testament that is not expected to be admitted to probate.  This is usually the situation when the automobiles are the only assets involved.

The confusion is caused by the short title of the document ("Affidavit When Owner Dies Without a Will").  At first glance, this seems to indicate that the procedure is only available if there is no will.  But this may be misleading.  The rest of the Affidavit indicates that reference to the owner dying without a will really refers to the owner dying without a will that has been or will be admitted to probate.  For example:

  • The first sentence fully describes the document as an "application for assignment of title to a vehicle when the owner dies without a will being probated and no personal representative appointed or widow's allotment made."
  • The second numbered paragraph states: "That no will was probated and no administrator, executor or other personal representative has been appointed to administer on his or her estate."

This language indicates that that the procedure is available even if there is a valid Last Will and Testament, as long as the will is not expected to be probated, no executor is appointed, and no widow's allowance is made.  This interpretation has been confirmed by my calls with the Title Bureau on this issue.

It is clear that the procedure is not available if the decedent's will has been or is expected to be admitted to probate.  If the executor intends to probate the will, the automobiles will pass under the will and not through this special procedure.

I advise potential clients to contact the Title Bureau for the Department of Revenue (601-923-7200) with any specific questions about the form and the circumstances under which it can be used.  If the decedent's only asset was an automobile and the Title Bureau confirms that the form can be used, Mississippi probate can usually be avoided.

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About Jeramie Fortenberry

I am an attorney practicing trust and estate law in Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. I offer free telephonic consultations to clients with questions about probate and estate planning. Get yours today.

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