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Family friend died without a will or no known living heirs. Only asset is a car, how to handle ownership?

Detroit, MI |

In the process of notifying the auto lender of his death and in preparation to turn in the car to lender, the lender asked if we wanted to purchase the car. Without getting the proper details and understanding we agreed and forwarded the balance due on the loan to the lender (over $5000), in expectation that we were buying the car from the lender and would get clean title. We were sadly mistaken, the lender used our payment to satisfy the deceased loan, so the documentation they sent was that the lien was released from the car, but the title is still in deceased name. Now the question is, since I've paid a hefty sum for the car, how do I get ownership of it without becoming the PR? We are uninterested in taking on the responsibility involved with becoming a PR.

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Attorney answers 2

Posted

I would try to use the small estate affidavit and indicate that you are a creditor. This is also an instance where the dealer really should assist you, since they had you pay for it, under false pretenses.

You can find the small estate affidavit here: http://courts.michigan.gov/scao/courtforms/probate/gpindex.htm

(It is the top form).

James Frederick

I am licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan and have offices in Wayne and Ingham Counties. My practice is focused in the areas of estate planning and probate administration. I am ethically required to state that the above answer does not create an attorney/client relationship. These responses should be considered general legal education and are intended to provide general information about the question asked. Frequently, the question does not include important facts that, if known, could significantly change the answer. Information provided on this site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in the subject area in your state. The law changes frequently and varies from state to state.

Posted

I think that Mr. Frederick is right, as to what to try to do. Probate courts are very non-standard from county to county unfortunately. The best case scenario is - that you paid the funeral bill and have a nice handy paid funeral receipt with your name on it? That would make the form easier to fill out. :)

The Affidavit for a Small Estate is limited to property with a value of $20,000 or under for people who died from 2009 through 2011. So, first you have to have a value on the car. You can get a value, free, at kelly blue book.com. Once you have the value you can fill out the form. The affidavit process is limited though. The statute requires the court to distribute the property of your friend as follows:
- First to pay any unpaid funeral bill or burial expenses. If you paid these bills, you are in good shape. If the bills have not been paid, then the court is required to assign the vehicle to the funeral home for it's bill.
(To the claims of any known creditors) and then--
- And then in this order: Surviving spouse (none), to decedent's heirs.

James P. Frederick

James P. Frederick

Posted

The added benefit with using the small estate affidavit procedure is that the court is not involved at all. The Petition and Assignment procedure can be used if the Affidavit does not work, but only in cases where the petitioner is an heir. Since that is not the case here, the only course not involving probate, as well as lots of extra costs and fees, seems to be the Affidavit proceeding. If the value of the car is more than $20,000, I agree that full blown probate would be required.

Jaynie Smith Hoerauf

Jaynie Smith Hoerauf

Posted

Actually, I think that we are in total agreement. I just am really new at this. I need to remember to be precise in my language. :) the Petition will probably do it.

James P. Frederick

James P. Frederick

Posted

Jaynie~ We all start somewhere and you picked a good area to practice in. My point was that the Affidavit would work, but the Petition probably would not. ;-) And yes...this forum requires REALLY careful and precise language, because otherwise, someone can misconstrue what you are saying and act to their detriment; even though we are all trying just to be helpful and provide useful information. Best of luck to you in your practice!

Jaynie Smith Hoerauf

Jaynie Smith Hoerauf

Posted

You too!