Executorium

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DON’T “Just Take Dad’s Car.”

Estate Automobile Liability

DON’T “Just Take Dad’s Car.”

Estate Property| 5-minute read
Estate Vehicle | Estate Liability| Estate Insurance

 

Dad’s car is right outside and you’ve got the keys.  This is a little different situation than that time in 1981 when … nevermind.  Dad’s gone and you’re a responsibile adult (maybe not – I don’t know) and you’re feeling a little nostalgic perhaps.  Maybe your sister wants to take it for a spin, and she was always the responsible one.  Not so fast you fiduciary.

That’s right, I said it, “you’re a fiduciary!”

So as a fiduciary, you don’t want to risk the assets of the estate.

Loretta L. Worters, Vice President, Media Relations at the Insurance Information Institute, states,

I would advise NOT to drive the (decedent’s) car if they are not on the policy, until they notify the insurer as there could be an issue if they drive the car and there was an accident.  There are different laws in different states on this.  If you are not listed as an authorized driver on the car’s insurance policy, you likely will not be covered in the event of an accident. You could also be held personally liable for any damages or injuries that occur while driving the car.  (Not to mention there could be fines through the state, license suspension, criminal charges and even jail time.)

As executor, going through the decedent’s mail may not be one of the most glamorous parts of the job but it’s where you’ll get a lot of your information.  If the decedent doesn’t have organized records, this may be your best bet for insurance policy status and a contact for the policy-issuing insurance company.

Jen Sawday, Probate Attorney and Partner for TLD LAW in Long Beach, CA puts it plainly, “Do not drive a dead man’s car.”  Ms. Sawday continues, “It’s not insured unless you told the insurance company that he died and obtained a new policy under the estate, trust or transferred the car to the intended new owner.

Per Ms. Wolters above, “There are different laws in different states on this.”  Ms. Sawday practices in California.  They laws in the estate’s state are likely different.  However, it serves to illustrate, that as a fiduciary, it is your responsibility, your obligation, to know what the laws are regarding the motor vehicle assets of an estate.

Until you know for sure, I’d follow Ms. Sawday’s advice. “Leave the car alone”.

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Executorium would like to thank Jen Sawday, Probate Attorney and Partner for TLD LAW in Long Beach, CA, and Loretta L. Worters, Vice President, Media Relations at the Insurance Information Institute, for their assistance with this article.

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