Does a car go through probate in Tennessee?

On Behalf of | Jan 4, 2024 | Probate |

When people pass away in Tennessee, their estates typically go through probate. Probate is a court-supervised procedure. It helps with the settlement of debts and distribution of assets per the law.

One common question that arises is whether a car is subject to probate.

Probate basics

Probate involves the validation of the deceased person’s will, or if there is no will, the distribution of assets according to state laws. If there is no will, an affidavit of inheritance, copy of the death certificate and odometer disclosure statement may be necessary to get the car.

While some assets may bypass probate through mechanisms such as joint tenancy or beneficiary designations, others, including real estate and vehicles, often become part of the probate estate.

Titling and probate

In Tennessee, the probate process generally applies to real and personal property, which may include a car. The key factor is the car’s titling.

If the vehicle is jointly owned with a right of survivorship or if the vehicle’s title has a beneficiary, it may avoid the probate process and pass directly to the surviving co-owner or beneficiary.

Probate-exempt transfers

Certain transfers of vehicles may also be exempt from probate. For instance, if the deceased person had a payable-on-death designation on the vehicle title, it can go to the beneficiary without going through probate.

Similarly, if the total value of the probate estate is below a certain threshold, which is $50,000 in Tennessee, a simplified probate process (small estate administration) may apply. It makes the transfer of the car less complex.

Whether a car goes through probate in Tennessee depends on its title and the specific circumstances of the estate. Joint ownership, beneficiary designations and certain exemptions can all play a role in determining the fate of a vehicle.


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