We want to leave our cars to our children. What is the best way?

We want to leave our cars to our children.  What is the best way?

Q: My wife and I have two cars. Our wills give one car to our son and the other car to our daughter. To avoid a lot of legal trouble if we die, should we now sign the back of the title of both cars and leave the date blank until they sell the cars? Both kids have said they want to sell the cars when we’re gone.

A: You should not do that.

For starters, you can decide to sell your cars before you die. If you’ve already passed the title on to your children, that can make the trade-in or sale more difficult.

But more importantly, your kids can easily sell the cars using Form VTR-262, which is called “Affidavit of Heir for a Motor Vehicle.” This form allows them to sell the cars as long as they do so before approving your wills, or as long as no probate of your will is required.

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Of course, if you own other assets, such as a house or bank account, that need to be inspected, there will be no cost savings with Form VTR-262 as your children will still need to hire a lawyer and undergo probate.

Q: I’m having trouble transferring the title of my late wife’s car to my name. Two clerks from the Tomball Tax Assessor’s office told me to have testamentary letters. My attorney has put her will on probation as a title so I don’t have the above letters. My lawyer suggested we go to another tax office. What can I do to transfer the title?

A. You should have used Form VTR-262 (mentioned in the previous answer) to transfer the title before starting Muniment or Title as it is now technically too late to use that form.

By law, that form can no longer be used once you have started the inheritance. At this point, it will likely be necessary to have your attorney go back to court to change the probate to an ordinary probate where you are appointed to serve as an independent executor (assuming you are the one named in the will has been appointed). Then you will receive the letters from the court.

Muniment of Title probates should only be used in the rarest of circumstances. The reason is that in so many estates, an asset is discovered that requires a signature to transfer the title. That’s exactly what happened in your case. Fulfilling your wife’s will using a regular estate would mean that you would only do a little more work from your attorney, and thus only a nominal increase in the fees you paid, but it would have made it possible for you to get testamentary letters from the court.

The information in this column is intended to provide a general understanding of the law, not legal advice. Ronald Lipman of the law firm Lipman & Associates in Houston is certified in estate planning and probate by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Email inquiries to: [email protected]