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Is It illegal To Drive A Car Registered To A Deceased Person?

In most cases, Life after the death of a dear one comes with many burdensome responsibilities and a journey of its own, which carry legal implications. Also, it is a common question that comes into play: “Is it even legal for me to drive the deceased person’s car? This article intends to untangle this complex issue and provide you with the relevant information on how to navigate these legally and with respect.

  1. Legal Considerations

At the very core of it, the act of driving a car registered to a dead person is generally considered illegal throughout the United States. Legality is based on the realization that the registration of the vehicle is rendered null if the owner is dead. It shall be a condition of the continued driving of the vehicle according to the law of the land that the ownership or registration of the vehicle is transferred to or re-registered in the name of another person. Usually, penalties are fine, impounding the vehicle, and sometimes criminal charges are realized in many forms in case they are imposed.

Is It illegal To Drive A Car Registered To A Deceased Person

  1. State-Specific Regulations

Every state will have its own laws and regulations concerning the transfer of car ownership following the death of the owner. However, grace periods within which the beneficiary of the car can use the car without applying may be indicated in some states, and unless such grace periods are clearly defined from the time the owner dies, there could be stringent no-bailout prohibitions. In light of that, it is an important step to get to know the regulations specific to one’s state.

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  1. Ownership Transfer Process

Now, how to proceed with transferring the title for a car after the owner has died? First, you will have to keep the death certificate ready and then find out the legal heir. You should find the car title and complete the transfer form from the DMV along with needed documents like the will or affidavit of heirship. Pay any fees, then submit paperwork to the DMV. Update the car’s registration and insurance after the transfer.

  1. Insurance and Liability Issues

The other very important issue is the question of insurance coverage. Most of the time, when the policyholder dies, the current policy will automatically lapse, hence leaving the vehicle without insurance coverage. Besides, driving without insurance is an offense, and the compensation that relates to damages or injuries in case of an accident lies entirely upon you as a person.

  1. Temporary Permissions and Exceptions

However, this general rule does have some exceptions. The court may give temporary permission, for instance, to use the vehicle for the specific use of the estate by an executor or administrator of the estate during probate. Likewise, if the car is owned jointly with rights of survivorship, the surviving owner continues to use the car without any formal transfer of ownership.


In short, before using a deceased person’s car, it’s crucial to legally and ethically transfer ownership. This respects the law and honors the memory of the loved one. If in doubt, consulting a legal professional is advisable.

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Parul is an experienced blogger, author and lawyer who also works as an SEO content writer, copywriter and social media enthusiast. She creates compelling legal content that engages readers and improves website visibility. Linkedin


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