Transferring cars, boats and other vehicles after death is really easy in California. The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has some very simple forms to use. In most cases you do not need a probate lawyer and can do it yourself. There are a few different types of transfers to consider after death:
1) the most common is the transfer without probate. The California DMV has a form, aptly titled “Affidavit for transfer without probate.” Here is a link to that form. This transfers the vehicle to the next of kin, or beneficiary in the will, and then that person can sell it or whatever they want to do.
2) the second most common way to transfer a vehicle after death is in a probate. In that case the Executor, or Administrator, of the estate will sign the pink slip (title paper) by actually signing the decedent’s name and then writing, “by ______ Executor.” The executor just writes their actual name in where the blank line is. The buyer can then register the car. Of course the money from the sale should go into the estate bank account. There is not a set DMV “form” for this as there is for transferring without probate.
3) transfer by trustee is the third way. That is, for the minority of people who hold title in their trust the successor trustee can sell or transfer the car.
In all cases it’s a good idea to review things with a California probate attorney to make sure you do things properly.