Is it necessary to legally transfer ownership of a car after the owner dies?

Kevinl asked...

My mother-in-law passed away. Her grandaughter borrowed the the car and is still driving it. The car is registered and insured in my mother-in-law's name. Is this a liability issue?

Expert Answer

Barbara Repa, a senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

There could indeed be a messy liability issue if the car is involved in an accident or other mishap.

Unless your mother-in-law directed that the car pass immediately to a new owner through a transfer-on-death arrangement, it now legally belongs to her estate.

Until the ownership issue is settled"”there is also a chance that she named a new owner for the car in a will or trust"”it is safer for the car to be left parked. The new owner will then have to transfer title and attend to registering and insuring the vehicle.