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Legal Notes

Vehicle titles

Pam OddyAttorney Pamela OddyMany people assume that adding another name, such as a daughter’s or a son’s, to the title of their vehicle will automatically create a joint tenancy. The purpose of establishing joint ownership of the vehicle is to avoid probate upon the death of the parent.

Unfortunately, the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) does not consider a second name, other than a spouse, on the vehicle’s title to be a co-owner. Therefore, if a parent adds a child’s name to the title, the vehicle will not automatically revert to the person whose name is listed second on the title. Instead, the vehicle will be considered to be owned by the parent in his/her name alone and will have to go through probate upon the death of the parent.  After the parent has died, the task of transferring the vehicle becomes the responsibility of the (probate) court appointed Personal Representative.

On the other hand, the DMV considers a vehicle which is titled in the names of two spouses to be jointly-owned. And a vehicle owned by one spouse in that person’s name alone will be easily transferred, upon death, to the surviving spouse by providing specific documents, including a form certified by the insurance company that insures the car, even though the surviving spouse’s name is not on the title.

The views expressed in this column represent general information. To address your particular and specific needs consult your own attorney. If you need help with referral to an attorney, contact the Franklin County Bar Association at (413) 773-9839 or the Worcester County Bar Association at (978) 752-1311. Elder law resources may be found through the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, Massachusetts Chapter, online or 617-566-5640.

Community Legal Aid (CLA) provides legal services free to people age 60 and older for civil legal matters with an emphasis on access to health care coverage (MassHealth and Medicare) and public benefits as well as tenants’ rights. A request for legal assistance can be made by phone at 413-774-3747 or toll-free 1-855-252-5342 during their intake hours (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. and Wednesday from 1:30 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.) or any time online.