When someone passes away with a vehicle in their name, a vehicle becomes part of their estate UNLESS that vehicle is titled with a "rights to survivor" notation. If you are able to view the title and more than one person is listed on the title with a note of survivorship, that vehicle will automatically transfer to the 2nd owner upon that 2nd owner presenting a death certificate to the Secretary of State. If there is NOT this notation, you will have to determine the next course of action.
If the vehicle can't be transferred to a survivor pursuant to the vehicle title, that vehicle becomes part of the deceased estate. An estate must be probated via either a Small Estate Procedure or Order of Assignment.
When that estate is so small that there isn't even enough to open up any sort of probate case, sometimes, a vehicle can be transferred to the either the surviving spouse (if there is one) or the next closest of kin via a Certification from the Heir to a Vehicle form (TR-29) with authority granted under Public Act 300 of 1949 as amended.
This form can be executed (signed) by the heir of the deceased. To do so, that person must certify that the total value of all vehicles owned by the deceased is less than $60,000 and that the estate of the deceased is not being probated and will not be probated in the future (MCL 257.236). This transfer can actually be done whether or not you are able to locate the actual title of the vehicle.
A consideration regarding transferring a vehicle is whether there is a lien on the vehicle. A lien means that the deceased owed money on the vehicle. That amount will need to be paid before the title can be transferred to a new owner. Depending on the deceased's estate assets, it may or may not make sense to pay off that lien.
Review a deceased assets and liabilities with an attorney to determine the best way to proceed. Attorney Allison Greenlee Korr handles cases in Kalamazoo, Battle Creek and all surrounding counties, call today for a consultation. 269-381-4471