Does My Spouse Automatically Inherit My Vehicle When I Die?
First, here’s a little background: for many years, Ohio law provided that a surviving spouse is entitled to transfer two automobiles in the name of the deceased spouse, without probate, as long as the total value was under $40,000. However, in 2017, Ohio modified this rule to allow the Surviving Spouse to transfer an unlimited number of vehicles, provided that
- The total value of the vehicles(s) transferred cannot exceed $65,000.
- This may include one boat, one outboard motor and one boat trailer
- Motorcycles are included.
- A truck is included if it was used for transportation by the deceased spouse or their family during the deceased spouse’s lifetime
It is important to note that the following are EXCLUDED under this rule
- Commercial vehicles
- Motor homes
- Recreational vehicles
- Mobile Homes (that are titled as vehicles)
It is also very important to understand that this rule is not “automatic”. It requires the surviving spouse to make a trip to the Clerk of Courts and have the vehicle re-titled into their name. This transfer does not require the approval of the Probate Court but it will require new plates and new registration. More importantly, it requires the surviving spouse to take affirmative action to ensure that the same vehicle avoids probate at his or her death. If this action is not taken, then the family will have to probate the vehicle(s) at the survivor’s death.
Also, don’t forget that if you often travel in the same car with your spouse, if you should both pass away at the same time, the spousal transfer rules do nothing to avoid probate.
So while Ohio’s surviving spouse vehicle transfer rules provide the benefit of avoiding the probate process in some circumstances it is not an excuse for a well-rounded estate plan. Regardless of value, your vehicles will not transfer automatically to your children without probate at the death of the surviving spouse. Without pre-planning, your children will have to go through the Probate process in order to establish who gets the vehicle(s), which could mean delays, extra costs and disagreements between your children about who gets what.
At Cooper, Adel, Vu and Associates, we assist families to create estate plans that not only avoid probate, but reduce additional steps and hassle on the surviving spouse and ensure that vehicles of all types are transferred to beneficiaries without probate and regardless of value.
Find out more about pre-planning by attending an educational seminar or webinar. See the schedule here or call 1-800-798-5297 to set up a complimentary consultation.
Dually certified by the National Elder Law Foundation as Certified Elder Law Attorneys and the Ohio State Bar Association as Specialists in the Area of Elder Law.