Avoiding Roadblocks

It has long been possible in Michigan to transfer a decedent’s vehicles to their closest kin without probate – as long as all the decedent’s vehicles aren’t worth more than $60,000, and the estate is not being probated. The forms to transfer title in this way are posted on the Secretary of State’s website.

For many of our clients, however, $60,000 is too low a threshold to do them any good. For others, their vehicles may not be particularly valuable, but they want those vehicles to go to someone other than their next of kin. These folks could title their vehicles in their living trusts, but that would unnecessarily expose their trusts to liability in case of an accident. So, what’s the alternative?

There is a very simple and little-known tool that isn’t mentioned on the Secretary of State’s website, but which is codified under state law and authorized in the Department of State’s Title and Registration Manual. It is a “transfer on death” designation that the vehicle owner signs and attaches to the vehicle title. As long as the designation is properly drafted and signed, it can be used to transfer, without probate, a decedent’s titled motor vehicles, watercraft and trailers to the persons designated. It even works for post-death transfers to trust.

If you would like to learn more about Transfer on Death Designations for vehicles or would like us to prepare one for you, please give us a call at (248) 477-6300.

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