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tranfering title on a car

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What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)? CA

I have the Nolo press book to probate in my state (CA) and it has a very small section on transfering automobiles and basically says that you can usually transfer an automobile in California without finishing probate, and the DMV will usually just do it with a couple forms.

The book goes on to say at several other points things about how transfers need to be held for four months until probate is finished to allow for debts to be collected.

So this is one issue on which I'm confused.....
Do we need to wait until probate is over to transfer a car into our name? The car is paid for in full, but from what I understand, it's not insured because it's still in the decedents name. If anything happens to it, we're basically screwed if we can't insure it under our policy, is what a lot of people are telling me.

Secondary question: If we cannot transfer it into our name, what do people usually do with automobiles while waiting for probate to close? Just store them somewhere?


The will has been entered into probate and we have our first date next month. The section you reference says:
"10520. If the time for filing claims has expired and it appears
that the distribution may be made without loss to creditors or injury
to the estate or any interested person, the personal representative
has the power to make preliminary distributions of the following:
(a) Income received during administration to the persons entitled
under Chapter 8 (commencing with Section 12000) of Part 10.
(b) Household furniture and furnishings, motor vehicles, clothing,
jewelry, and other tangible articles of a personal nature to the
persons entitled to the property under the decedent's will, not to
exceed an aggregate fair market value to all persons of fifty
thousand dollars ($50,000) computed cumulatively through the date of
distribution. Fair market value shall be determined on the basis of
the inventory and appraisal.
(c) Cash to general pecuniary devisees entitled to it under the
decedent's will, not to exceed ten thousand dollars ($10,000) to any
one person.

And, I don't see how that applies, maybe I'm just not understanding it correctly?? But, I'm really looking for someone to tell me in laymans terms**************..I've read my Nolo book about a dozen times and even that is still really complicated to understand.


Senior Member
And, I don't see how that applies, maybe I'm just not understanding it correctly??
Creditors have a certain time period to file claims against the estate.

9100. (a) A creditor shall file a claim before expiration of the
later of the following times:
(1) Four months after the date letters are first issued to a
general personal representative.
(2) Sixty days after the date notice of administration is mailed
or personally delivered to the creditor. Nothing in this paragraph
extends the time provided in Section 366.2 of the Code of Civil
If that period has expired, then the personal rep can take the actions permitted under Section 10520.


so then the answer is, no, we can't transfer it until after probate?

do people generally just garage cars in probate until it's done??


No, the answer is that if the personal representative has powers under the Independent Administration of Estates Act, and if the creditors claim period has run, and if the car and everything else distributed under P.C. 10520(b) is less than 50k, then the PR can transfer title.

Probate is over after the PR gets an order for distribution, distributes the estate, and gets discharged.

Its the PR's job to store the car and insure it. Who knows, an unknown creditor might appear. Are you the PR?


I don't even understand what you said and like I said, I really would like someone to explain it in human terms, rather than quote code I've read and don't really understand. I'm not a moron, but I'm not a lawyer and this is the first probate situation I've dealt with.

The estate has to go through probate. The estate includes a house so it's worth more than 50k, but in the Nolo press book it says it's under 100k that it can go without probate.

Like I said, in the book I'm reading, it states that we can go to the DMV and get the title put in our name. But, in other chapters, it talks about probate taking 4 months so that creditors can come forth.

That was where I was confused....can we transfer it NOW or do we have to wait until probate closes in case some creditor wants to claim the car? (I ask because it seems like a liability to have an uninsured car, and it's new so we worry about what would happen if something happened to it or it got stolen) The few storage facilities I've called said they don't store vehicles that aren't insured, so it makes me wonder what people do with cars, especially if they are somewhat valuable, for the months probate drags on if, indeed, we cannot transfer the title.


Senior Member
Open the probate estate.

Notify the creditors.

If the creditors don't file a notice that they want to be paid and the time period for filing claims has passed, then you can sell the car to whoever you want.

If the creditors file a notice that they want to be paid, then the car has to be sold at fair market value and then you take the money and pay it on the bills.


FWIW, we don't want to sell the car, we'll probably keep it, we're just worried about it's uninsured status, since we have to park it on our street.


Tacking on to this, if anyone knows**************..
The only debt the estate has is the mortgage on the house. It is less than the worth of the home, so I assume if the bank comes forth and wants to be paid and we decide to just let them take the house, they can't really come after the other assets, right? Or can they say "sell the cars to pay for the mortgage"?
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Our insurance company won't insure it if it's not in our name. Hence the point of this thread. I thought that was fairly obvious but I guess not.


I asked two questions, the answers to which might clarify things.

1. Is there a court proceeding?

2. Are you the PR?

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