I had a car loan with my dad. How do I get the title in my name?

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Q. My dad and I were co-borrowers on a car loan. When my father passed away, I paid off the loan. The bank sent me the car title in his name. Do I now own the car? I want to trade in the car for another, but don’t know what to do.
— Driver

A. We’re sorry to hear about your father.

Changing a title may be a pain in the neck, but it is possible.

First, given that the bank sent the title in your father’s name, it sounds like you may have been a co-signer on the loan, said Betty Thomas, a chartered financial consultant and certified financial planner with Peapack Private Wealth Management in New Providence.

“A co-signer’s responsibility is to repay the loan if the primary borrower has missed payments or is not able to repay it,” she said. “As a co-signer, you would not have any rights to the car and your name would not be listed on the title.”

As a co-borrower, she said, the repayment of the loan is shared and both parties have ownership in the property. Once the car was paid off, both names would appear on the title, she said.

If you want to trade in the car, the title will have to be changed to reflect you as the new owner, she said.

For that, you’ll need to go through a process with the Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC).

It says a vehicle registered in the name of someone who died may be operated for 30 days after the date of death.

If the title is in both the husband and wife’s name, you’d have to submit the old title, a copy of the death certificate and a notarized affidavit (Form BA-62). Then you’d pay a $60 title fee, MVC says.

If the vehicle was left to someone in a will, you’d have to submit the old title — properly assigned by the executor of the estate and a surrogate’s short certificate — and pay the $60 title fee, it said.

To transfer ownership of the vehicle to the estate, you have to first apply for an Entity Identification Number (EIN).  Once you have that, you bring the EIN, the old title, the surrogate’s short certificate, and your driver’s license as proof of identification to a motor vehicle agency, MVC said. Then you’d pay the $60 title fee and also show registration and proof of New Jersey insurance in the estate name if the vehicle will be operated.

If the owner dies without a will, it’s a little more complicated, and you can find the details on the MVC website.

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This story was originally published on May 24, 2022.

NJMoneyHelp.com presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.