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How to Transfer a Car Title When Owner Is Deceased in Indiana

Title: How to Transfer a Car Title When Owner Is Deceased in Indiana


The loss of a loved one is a challenging time, and dealing with legal matters can add to the emotional burden. If you find yourself tasked with transferring a car title after the owner’s death in Indiana, it is essential to understand the necessary steps and requirements. This article will guide you through the process and address frequently asked questions to ensure a smooth transition of ownership.

I. Understanding the Probate Process:

1. Determine if Probate is Required:
– In Indiana, if the deceased person solely owned the vehicle, probate may be necessary to transfer the car title to the rightful heir.
– If the vehicle is jointly owned, the surviving owner automatically assumes full ownership without the need for probate.

2. Appointing an Executor or Personal Representative:
– If probate is required, an executor or personal representative must be appointed to administer the estate.
– The executor will handle the deceased’s affairs, including transferring the car title.

II. Steps to Transfer the Car Title:

1. Gather Important Documents:
– Obtain the original car title, death certificate, and the deceased’s will (if applicable).
– Keep a copy of the will, as it may contain specific instructions regarding the vehicle’s transfer.

2. Complete the Transfer of Title Form:
– Obtain Form 44049, the Application for Certificate of Title, from the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) or their website.
– Fill out the form accurately, providing the necessary information about the deceased owner and the new owner (heir).

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3. Provide Additional Documentation:
– Attach a copy of the death certificate to the application form.
– If applicable, include a copy of the will or any court orders that designate ownership transfer.

4. Submit the Application:
– Visit a local BMV branch or mail the completed application, along with the supporting documents, to the BMV’s title division.
– Pay any applicable fees, such as title transfer and registration fees.

5. Await Approval:
– The BMV will review the application and supporting documents.
– Once approved, the new title will be issued in the name of the rightful heir.

III. Frequently Asked Questions:

Q1. Can I transfer the car title without probate?
A1. If the deceased owner had a will designating the vehicle’s transfer, it may be possible to bypass probate. Consult an attorney to determine if an alternative process, such as a Small Estate Affidavit, can be utilized.

Q2. What if the deceased owner did not have a will?
A2. In the absence of a will, the vehicle’s transfer will follow Indiana’s intestate succession laws. Consult an attorney for guidance on the appropriate steps to transfer ownership.

Q3. How long does the title transfer process typically take?
A3. The timeline for title transfer varies, but it typically takes four to six weeks for the BMV to process the application and issue the new title.

Q4. Can I drive the vehicle during the transfer process?
A4. If the vehicle is properly insured and the registration is up to date, you may continue to drive the car until the new title is issued. However, it is advisable to consult an attorney or insurance agent to ensure compliance with legal requirements.

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Q5. Can I transfer the title to someone other than the rightful heir?
A5. If the deceased owner’s will designates a specific recipient for the vehicle, the transfer must align with those instructions. Otherwise, the intestate succession laws will determine the rightful heir.


Transferring a car title when the owner is deceased in Indiana requires careful attention to detail and adherence to the probate process. By understanding the necessary steps, gathering the appropriate documents, and following the outlined procedures, you can ensure a smooth transition of ownership. Seek legal guidance if you encounter any complexities during the process.

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