Reader Questions

My Husband Died And Left Me His Truck Loan. Can I Trade It In? – Teresa

My husband passed away in September 2010. He had an auto loan in his name only. Am I as his wife, responsible for the loan. He also has credit card debt which I am paying monthly. I am unemployed and get half of his pension each month. I also get State unemployment benefits, which have just begun.

Am I able to trade in the vehicle to finance another vehicle? I tried to refinance my house but was told that I needed to show a year of checks written by me alone in order to qualify for mortgage refinancing. Will I have trouble getting a car loan because I am unemployed? If so, what do I do about the monthly truck payments? Do I let the bank take the vehicle and then what?

Teresa




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Steve Rhode

Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.

2 Comments

  • Sorry to hear of your loss.

    If you are married, the truck should pass to your name once he dies. As such, it is your property. However, in order to get it titled in your name alone, you may have to go to the DMV with a certified copy of the death certificate. Contact your local DMV for more details.

    Your question illustrates two problems people have with joint property when a spouse or partner dies.

    1. If you are a live-in couple (e.g., domestic partners, or whatever) and not married, it is a good idea to put your assets in Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship (JTWROS) – this way if one of you dies, the other automatically gets possession of the property without having to go through probate. Otherwise, your partner’s relatives get their possessions, which can get messy. If you are married, this step may not be necessary in most States, as the spouse of a married couple automatically inherits the spouses assets in most cases, if they died intestate (without a will). JTWROS however, makes it clear who owns the vehicle when the other dies, without having to probate a will.

    2. When a spouse or partner dies, the funeral home or whoever will ask you how many copies of the death certificate you need. You need one certified copy for each vehicle, stock, bank account, retirement plan, life insurance policy, real estate asset, etc. This can often be a dozen or several dozen. Most people, grieving, fail to order these at the time of death and it can take months to get them later on.

    With the death certificate, you should be able to get the truck titled in your name alone (talk to the DMV and ask them what information they need. If they give you trouble, talk to your local legal aid society).

    Once titled in your name, you can then sell the truck, or “trade it in”. I would advise AGAINST the latter. If you are trying to refinance your house, you need less debt, not more. Paying off the truck loan and getting out of debt would be a better idea than getting a new car right now.

    I would suggest instead that you sell the truck (which I presume is a second vehicle) and use the proceeds to pay off the loan and some of that credit card debt. With less debt on your credit report, you will find it easier to qualify for refinancing your mortgage.

    Plus, if you are unemployed, now is not the time to be buying a new car, right?

    Hope that helps. Good luck and God Bless!

  • Sorry to hear of your loss.

    If you are married, the truck should pass to your name once he dies. As such, it is your property. However, in order to get it titled in your name alone, you may have to go to the DMV with a certified copy of the death certificate. Contact your local DMV for more details.

    Your question illustrates two problems people have with joint property when a spouse or partner dies.

    1. If you are a live-in couple (e.g., domestic partners, or whatever) and not married, it is a good idea to put your assets in Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship (JTWROS) – this way if one of you dies, the other automatically gets possession of the property without having to go through probate. Otherwise, your partner’s relatives get their possessions, which can get messy. If you are married, this step may not be necessary in most States, as the spouse of a married couple automatically inherits the spouses assets in most cases, if they died intestate (without a will). JTWROS however, makes it clear who owns the vehicle when the other dies, without having to probate a will.

    2. When a spouse or partner dies, the funeral home or whoever will ask you how many copies of the death certificate you need. You need one certified copy for each vehicle, stock, bank account, retirement plan, life insurance policy, real estate asset, etc. This can often be a dozen or several dozen. Most people, grieving, fail to order these at the time of death and it can take months to get them later on.

    With the death certificate, you should be able to get the truck titled in your name alone (talk to the DMV and ask them what information they need. If they give you trouble, talk to your local legal aid society).

    Once titled in your name, you can then sell the truck, or “trade it in”. I would advise AGAINST the latter. If you are trying to refinance your house, you need less debt, not more. Paying off the truck loan and getting out of debt would be a better idea than getting a new car right now.

    I would suggest instead that you sell the truck (which I presume is a second vehicle) and use the proceeds to pay off the loan and some of that credit card debt. With less debt on your credit report, you will find it easier to qualify for refinancing your mortgage.

    Plus, if you are unemployed, now is not the time to be buying a new car, right?

    Hope that helps. Good luck and God Bless!

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