21 Apr How can I transfer title on my mom’s car? She’s ill.
Q. My mother is about to pass away. I am the sole heir and executor in her will. How do I handle the transfer of the car to my name without a delay so I can continue driving the vehicle? I have the title and there are no liens on the car.
— Making things right
A. We’re sorry to hear about your mother.
If she’s able to do so, or if there is a valid power of attorney in place permitting an agent to make gifts, it may be simplest for your mother to gift you the car prior to her death by signing over the title to the car, said Catherine Romania, an estate planning attorney with Witman Stadtmauer in Florham Park.
You can then appear in person at a local New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission office to transfer title, she said.
“Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these offices are closed and only online transactions are possible at this time, so the actual registration with the Motor Vehicle Commission may have to wait,” she said.
If the value of the car is less than $15,000 and the car together with other gifts made to you in the same year do not exceed that amount, there will be no federal gift tax return to be filed, Romania said. That’s because there is an annual exclusion for gifts under $15,000 per year per donee.
“Even if the value exceeds the annual exclusion requiring a gift tax return to be filed, there is no tax unless the donor has used up the entire federal estate and gift tax exemption amount which in 2020 is $11.58 million,” she said. “Moreover, there is no fear of bringing the gift back in as a gift in contemplation of death for New Jersey inheritance tax determinations as descendants are exempt from the New Jersey inheritance tax.”
If your mother is not well enough to sign over title and a valid power of attorney does not exist allowing for gifting, you still may drive the car for a period of time pending the transfer of title following your mother’s passing, Romania said.
According to the New Jersey motor vehicle statute 39:3-30.3, a licensed driver authorized by a member of the decedent’s family may continue to drive the decedent’s vehicle for 30 days after the decedent’s death, Romania said.
“Generally, that is enough time to arrange to appear in person at a local New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission office to transfer title,” she said. “Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the offices are closed and only online transactions are possible at this time so such transfer may have to wait.”
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This story was originally published on April 21, 2020.
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