In the time that I have been writing this column I have accumulated many different topics. The requests have been varied, but I must admit, I never would have come up with this week's topic myself. A reader has asked about vehicles owned by dead people.
The question is not as far out as you might think, and has some very important legal considerations. The lawyer I spoke with to gather background information suggested that on the death of a sole registered owner, the plates be cancelled, a storage insurance policy be purchased, and the vehicle be parked until the estate is probated.
If the vehicle is owned "jointly" (both husband and wife are registered as owners, jointly), then the surviving spouse automatically is granted ownership as a right of survivorship. The registration still needs to be straightened out, but the vehicle does not form part of the estate of the deceased and there is, therefore, no need to wait for probate of the estate for the surviving spouse to do whatever they want with the vehicle.
If others continue to use the vehicle after the registered owner's death, be sure all insurance companies with an interest in the vehicle are notified of the situation. Failure to do so could result in a denial of insurance coverage if the vehicle were damaged or stolen.
How does a deceased registered owner get a red light camera ticket, and how do the police require this person to give details regarding the driver if the vehicle is involved in a breach of the Motor Vehicle Act? The responsibility falls on the shoulders of the executor or administrator of the estate. This is the person the law places the burden on, and it can be a very heavy responsibility if things go wrong.
My lawyer advisor strongly recommends that an executor get legal advice immediately on becoming involved with the administration of an estate.