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Why having a valid title is helpful when you sell or pass on your vehicles to family.


Bryan G
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She bought it new, at the little Chevrolet dealer in her hometown. Such a pretty shade of teal, that 2 door Impala. That garage? She may have had it built especially for her baby. A snotty-nosed kid frequently walked past that big old automobile with admiring eyes; he didn't realize her days were numbered...both the lady and her car. When she passed, after a hard fight with cancer, her husband (my grandfather) saw no point in dealing with the title. It was in her name only. The man begged him-begged him-as cash was handed over. Couldn't you work to get me the title? Scrap.

 

Fast forward decades; a slight, quiet woman down the road, a customer of mine. Everyone knew her car, one she kept so clean. Were it a 57, they would have stood in line at her door, but that Bel Air was a 75 (yes, the last year for that storied nameplate.) Mint green, of course it was. That woven vinyl upholstery that was a hallmark of low-line Chevy's. Ran like a top. I didn't notice it in the paper when they laid her to rest. One day the car was gone. I talked to her son; the title work was too much for him, being in her name only. Oh, I've been an executor, and found it easy. But, not for him, I suppose. The story was so familiar: he told me of a man begging-begging-for help with the title as the cash was handed over. Scrap.

 

Spanning those decades: a kindly gentleman, well known in this area. I never heard a bad word said of him. He bought the Studebaker from an estate, back in '68, and cared for it the rest of his life. Just a faded sedan, but he kept it gassed up. Indoor storage for 50 years; the first time I set eyes on it, wiping away the dust, I found and insurance card in the glove box, valid through the year the man had died. The battery under the hood was replaced that same year, based on the date code. Ten years had passed when I walked into that cold warehouse, and the 259 under the hood was stuck, but good. The sweet woman who inherited it told me the whole story. I fell in love with that old Lark; we shook hands, cash would be exchanged...on the day the title was presented. He could have kept it in his safe, or in the bank, or in a coffee can on the backseat. Glovebox, visor, under the spare tire? DMV has never heard of it. He cared so much for that car, just not enough to guarantee it's survivor.

 

This weekend, on a dreary gray day, on a small-town auction field. Amid worn-out county roads surplus, tired old tractors, beat-to-death 90s sedans...were a smattering of collector cars. Some T's, an A, a pre-war Chevy. One, in particular, caught my eye. The perfect project for me. My wife has been hinting at an A, or something like it, which is to say anything from before the mid-30s to her eyes! A '29 DeSoto would do just fine! "Engine frozen". Probably just gummed up, said the voice in my head. Still has tags on the back seat; still wearing an AACA tour banner on the spare tire! I didn't think much before I placed an online bid, about a week before the "go live" date. Outbid overnight, I tossed another thousand at it. On top again. But then, I got to thinking: some of the cars stated "no title" but most didn't mention it. Maybe, before I go crazy, I should check. The auction company told me they would investigate, and to check the description the next day. Update. No title. Bid withdrawn.

 

I don't know the story, at all. I only know, someone really cared about this car, once. But, maybe not enough. As original as possible, that's how I would have kept it. I'd strive to have that flathead six running by the fourth of July. Not now. For all I know, someone will plant it atop the frame of a beat Chevy S-10. See it this fall, at Dairy Queen, an LS stuffed 'neath the hood. I hope not.

 

All this to say, make it easy, why don't ya, for that next generation to keep your pride and joy on the road. Spell it all out. Put a family member or friend on the title. Oh, sure, I know all about Broadway Title and that sort of thing. Doesn't fly with me. Just, make it easy. Because...I care.

 

(Oh...it sold, as-is, for $3700.)

29s.jpg

29r.jpg

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Better still, set up a trust (of course, TALK TO AN ACTUAL LAWYER) and move all your property into the trust. At least for me, my children will pay nothing in inheritance taxes because they are already trustees. For those who are at odds with your children, you can make the successor trustees anyone you want. Doesn't have to be a relative.

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My father passed suddenly and did not have his will finalized.

I inherited his Pierce Arrow and Rickenbacker.

All I had were the titles in his name when I went to the DMV about a year later to have the cars moved over into my name so I could renew the registrations.

I was very lucky that the DMV clerk I got called up to had family with old cars and she had dealt with many title transfers for surviving relatives.

She walked me through the process and assisted with all the paperwork needed to get the cars in my name.

The most important pieces of paperwork were the death certificate and birth certificate that I took along.

 

Although I had taken possession of the cars not long after his funeral, it took me about a year to finally have the cars transferred over to me because, as silly as it sounds, removing his name from the cars was like erasing the last piece of him from this life.

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  • Peter Gariepy changed the title to Why having a valid title is helpful when you sell or pass on your vehicles to family.
2 minutes ago, 1937hd45 said:

You guys really loose sleep over "No Titles"? Ever ask when they ever started issuing them in your state? 

 

Bob,  depends on your state.  I can tell you if you are civilian in Massachusetts with a car and no title you are screwed.

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Body rusted to pieces?   

Interior shredded to ribbons from being exposed to the weather? 

Engine frozen solid from sitting with water in the cylinders after blown head gasket?

 

Collectors invest enormous amounts of time and effort correcting these "Uncorrectable",  unrepairable problems.   

Why do knowledgeable car people become frightened at not having a piece of paper?  

 

There is always a cure for the lack of a title. (I am exempting stolen vehicles!

Might it take time? YEAH

Might it take money? YEAH

Might you need to get help from somebody who knows how to title a car? ABSOLUTELY!!! 

 

But I bet that you are willing to invest time money and maybe hire an expert to; weld sheet metal, sew fabric, or machine rusty iron. 

Perhaps it isnt worth the effort for that particular car, but rusty, stuck or torn, you can always find a way to fix it. 

 

Titles? Sure they can be a hassle. Sure you might not WANT to invest the effort. Maybe YOU dont know how to create a title (in your state) BUT it can be done. 

There is always a way. . . . . 

 

"Oh, but I went to my local DMV office and they told me that there was no way I could EVER title that car!"  

Really? Well I went to Auto Zone and asked for Hudson parts and they told me that there was no where I could EVER find them.

I went to O' Reilly's and asked if they they had the correct fabric and a padded dash for my Edsel and they told me that the car would have to be junked, because those parts dont exist anywhere! 

I went to PEP Boys and they told me that patch panels and floor pans just dont exist. 

Home Depot doesnt sell a wood kit for my 1946 Ford wagon! 

 

Old car parts and repairs are not going to found in typical places.

Old car title information is not going to always be found at the (local) DMV. 

We have to use connections and "tricks" to get our parts and repairs. We sometimes have to do the same with our titles. 

Sometimes we have to go out of state for our parts and services . . . . . I'm just saying. . . . 

But it can be done.  But is it worth the effort? 

 

I live in California. I would NEVER weld patch panels on a rusty car.   

Personally I have never had a stuck engine, even on cars that have sat for decades. (low humidity in CA) 

But here in CA, I know the system and for me, no title is no problem. I know that all you have to do is "Tell the correct story" and you can get what you want. 

 

 

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4 minutes ago, alsancle said:

 

Bob,  depends on your state.  I can tell you if you are civilian in Massachusetts with a car and no title you are screwed.

Ok, So I find a 1908 Knox just outside Springfield and the original owner is dead, and he/she didn't mention the location of the "Title" in the will, will any "Vintage Car Dealer" you know just pass on the deal?  

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Being a retired dealer and notary; I can assure You that that piece of paper, "providing it IS a transferable title"; is valuable. In the deceased family member's name; usually the big "IS". If not all you have is toilet paper.

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5 minutes ago, intimeold said:

Being a retired dealer and notary; I can assure You that that piece of paper, "providing it IS a transferable title"; is valuable. In the deceased family member's name; usually the big "IS". If not all you have is toilet paper.

So what is the point if the car PREDATED titles? How many wagons that made to Oregon had "Titles"?

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55 minutes ago, 1937hd45 said:

Ok, So I find a 1908 Knox just outside Springfield and the original owner is dead, and he/she didn't mention the location of the "Title" in the will, will any "Vintage Car Dealer" you know just pass on the deal?  

A Mass Dealer would lose his license selling a car with no title in Mass, o matter where the buyer lives.

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19 hours ago, Bryan G said:

The man begged him-begged him-as cash was handed over. Couldn't you work to get me the title? Scrap.

 

19 hours ago, Bryan G said:

he told me of a man begging-begging-for help with the title as the cash was handed over. Scrap.

Scrapped?   You mean like it went to a wrecking yard to be destroyed???  By who's authority. . . ?

 

No wrecking yard can scrap any car that they dont have (pick one); the right, the authorization, the "ownership", or the title to.  Someone, some authority, somehow transferred to the junk man the "right title and interest" to destroy the car AND keep the value of the metal.  The wrecking yard owned the car and therefore owns the metal. FYI you do not need a title for scrap metal so the need for a title ends after a car becomes scrap metal. 

 

Every car that ends up in the junk yard has had its "ownership" (title) transferred to the wrecking yard.  Wrecking yards are surveyed, audited, monitored and searched by the authorities to verify that the yard has legal possession (title) of every car so as to prevent them from receiving and dealing in stolen cars. 

 

Sometimes that "title" is a bill of sale, sometimes it is a impound paperwork, sometimes it is a lien sale.   But every junked car is issued "a title".  Otherwise the car would belong the "the owner" (dead or alive) in perpetuity and it could never be disposed of. 

 

So, then if every car is "titled" at its death. Then there is going to be a process (somehow) to create a "title" to transfer ownership before the wrecking yard. 

 

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Am I ever glad I live in Canada { no Titles in Canada } . The more I hear these stories the more absurd the whole Title situation seems to me.  A person dies and his vehicle is junk because he legaly owns it ?  In Canada it just goes to his estate beneficiaries. Bring the registration paper with the death certificate and transfer to wifes or sons or other familly members name.

 Junking a car ? the tow truck just shows up and the car is gone, end of the story.

 Lost registration paper ?  { Canadian substitute for a title }  Go to an insurance office , pay the $20.00 fee and they print you a new one on the spot. { if selling } Otherwise just renew the insurance { it can be lapsed for any number of years } and they print you a new registration and proof of  insurance.

 Buy a vehicle without paperwork ? Do a last registered owner search  { $20.00 or so fee } and send a registered letter to the last address. Either the person can sign a transfer , or if the letter comes back unopened a Notary can usually provide documentation that allows you to register in your name.

 Does not work all the time , but most times yes. 

 If all else fails most provinces will issue provincial ID numbers and register from that . Most often done with kit cars and street rods .

 

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4 hours ago, m-mman said:

 

Scrapped?   You mean like it went to a wrecking yard to be destroyed???  By who's authority. . . ?

 

No wrecking yard can scrap any car that they dont have (pick one); the right, the authorization, the "ownership", or the title to.  Someone, some authority, somehow transferred to the junk man the "right title and interest" to destroy the car AND keep the value of the metal.  The wrecking yard owned the car and therefore owns the metal. FYI you do not need a title for scrap metal so the need for a title ends after a car becomes scrap metal. 

 

Every car that ends up in the junk yard has had its "ownership" (title) transferred to the wrecking yard.  Wrecking yards are surveyed, audited, monitored and searched by the authorities to verify that the yard has legal possession (title) of every car so as to prevent them from receiving and dealing in stolen cars. 

 

Sometimes that "title" is a bill of sale, sometimes it is a impound paperwork, sometimes it is a lien sale.   But every junked car is issued "a title".  Otherwise the car would belong the "the owner" (dead or alive) in perpetuity and it could never be disposed of. 

 

So, then if every car is "titled" at its death. Then there is going to be a process (somehow) to create a "title" to transfer ownership before the wrecking yard. 

 

Another one of those things that varies by state; I can tell you, where I live, salvage yards have been able to take vehicles in the past without titles. From my understanding that has gotten more difficult in recent years, making it tough for tow yards to rid themselves of abandoned vehicles that aren't worth the cost of a mechanic's lien. Or, so tells me my friend who owns a tow company. 

 

If we were talking about a Pierce-Arrow with a nice pedigree, someone would move the earth to get a title, and if they had any brains at all, they'd do it before offering the car for sale. But for many cars, folks will just take a pass. My whole point is, if you care about your car, make it easy for it to remain preserved. That's all.

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Last year, I titled two undocumented vehicles in Massachusetts.  One was a 1932 replica car I built from scratch, the other a 1963 Studebaker station wagon I bought 15 years before with no paperwork.  In both cases, I wrote out a detailed description of the vehicles, their history, and what I wanted for a title.  There is a special group, even in Massachusetts, at the Registry to deal with cases like this.  Your local registry/DMV office may not be completely up to speed, so find the people in the headquarters who know how to deal with this stuff.   Be open, be honest, bring all the paperwork - especially the bills for buying the car and parts (maybe not ALL of them).  What they really want is your tax dollars, so make it easy for them to compute a value.  I eventually had to pay the equivalent of 6.5% sales tax, OK, but it didn't include the value of the thousands of hours I put into the cars.  It may take time, multiple visits.  Just remember to smile, say please and thank you, and ask for help achieving your goal.  Reciting "mea culpa" also helps, but don't play too dumb.

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I agree with Gary. Turn your cell phone off, smile, say please & thank you. I live in Oregon and bought 3 cars last year 2 with titles. Both Oregon titles from the sixties. The state had scrubbed both titles & had to rebuild them. The other car had no title. It was sitting in a storage unit that the rent hadn't been paid in 5 years. The building owner did not know how to get rid of it. In Oregon you can't sale a car, trailer, boat anything that would have a title in a storage auction, it has to be removed by a license tower. Then the tower can have an auction. The paperwork you get from the tower take to DMV along with the car for them to check the vin. I got titles in 3 to 4 weeks. I have gotten titles for many cars over the years that didn't have them. Its easer then you think.

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If the car was legally titled in the previous owner's name, then the executor of the estate or the surviving spouse can sell the vehicle. It's easier for the surviving spouse if the title was held in joint status with the deceased person. If not then a copy of the death certificate would have to go with the paperwork. I bought two cars from estate sales where the death certificate was needed for the DMV transfer. There is personal information on the certificate that I imagine many would prefer not to share. I never read the death certificates and just handed them over to the clerk. I have several cars which I hold solo title to, since they are my inexpensive hobby cars, and I paid my own money for. Still, I plan to change all the titles to joint ownership with my Wife. This way she can simply sign them over when selling them. You know, after I'm gone.

I suppose that if a person buys a car and never held proper title to, it would be difficult for the survivors to sell, but not impossible. I know that in California a car that has not been parked and not registered for many years can be transferred without paying back fees if it is a car of historical interest, and the new buyer fills out an affidavit.

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10 hours ago, Gary_Ash said:

Last year, I titled two undocumented vehicles in Massachusetts.  One was a 1932 replica car I built from scratch, the other a 1963 Studebaker station wagon I bought 15 years before with no paperwork.  In both cases, I wrote out a detailed description of the vehicles, their history, and what I wanted for a title.  There is a special group, even in Massachusetts, at the Registry to deal with cases like this.  Your local registry/DMV office may not be completely up to speed, so find the people in the headquarters who know how to deal with this stuff.   Be open, be honest, bring all the paperwork - especially the bills for buying the car and parts (maybe not ALL of them).  What they really want is your tax dollars, so make it easy for them to compute a value.  I eventually had to pay the equivalent of 6.5% sales tax, OK, but it didn't include the value of the thousands of hours I put into the cars.  It may take time, multiple visits.  Just remember to smile, say please and thank you, and ask for help achieving your goal.  Reciting "mea culpa" also helps, but don't play too dumb.

That's great news Gary. I have a car that needs a title (I'm in Mass) who exactly do I speak with? Steve

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Titles in Minnesota started in 1974 only registration cards (and cab cards for trucks) were issued.  If you buy a "Barn Find"  the card is all you need and the state will issue you a title.

In Wisconsin you will need a photo and a rubbing of any serial numbers, they will do a numbers check.

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A lot of times I mention the experience differences from life long continuity in the hobby.

 

A person who is over 50 years old and "involved" with the hobby for a few decades should not have to worry about a title or ownership documents.

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in Canada it is not so easy anymore ,for example with my province and some others ,there is no "Title" title but it is more like a title system now and if a car has been in the system anytime after june 1995........then a signed ownership document from the showing owner in the system has to be produced.....or the car is basically junk without and no way to get new ownership

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3 hours ago, drhach said:

How can you say that. Many states won't issue a title for a car over a certain age. 

Those would be registration states. In that case replace the word title with registration. Selling a car without proper title or registration is a crime.

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I think 1912 Staver has over simplified vehicle registration in Canada. I was in a Service Ontario office this week and a widow selling a car to a neighbour was asked to show the will and the death certificate. I was trying to get plates on an unplated car registered to Peter and had to get him to fill out an authorization for me to act on his behalf. A title and a registration are one and the same thing- a record with the Government that you are the owner. And until you run afoul of them, you are not aware that there are a lot of cross checks between the MOT and the insurance companies. I would agree with the OP - get the title, maintain the title and when necessary, do a legal transfer of the title.

Erica

Edited by playswithbrass
Spell check! (see edit history)
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Ontario may be somewhat different than British Columbia. For a start we have Provincial Gov. Insurance so insurance and Registration documents are a one stop proposition.  Are you saying the Ontario version of vehicle registration is in fact a Title ?  As far as I know it serves the same purpose but there are a number of legal differences from a U.S. style Title.

 I do agree about your advice about keeping documentation in order.  Unfortunately it seems many cars have some sort of paperwork hurdle to overcome. My main point was that these problems are normaly reasonable easy to correct . I should have said in British Columbia rather than Canada as a whole. The Prairie Provinces are / were also quite easy to work with, although I saw a comment from Artic Buicks that Manitoba has recently become more difficult.

 From the sounds of what some of our U.S. friends are saying a lost Title { the slip of paper } , or a person who dies with a car still Titled in their name can be almost impossible to resolve in some States.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by 1912Staver (see edit history)
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