All About Estates

Dude, Where’s My Car? – How to Transfer the Ownership of a Deceased Person’s Vehicle to a Beneficiary in Ontario

More often than not, we come across the following question from an Executor: How do I transfer the ownership of the deceased’s vehicle where the deceased specifically named a beneficiary in the Will? This seems like a fairly simple process but as I’ve learned over time, nothing is as simple as it seems. This can be a time consuming and frustrating process for the Executor. Please note that for the purposes of this blog, the reference to “vehicle” will only include cars, trucks and SUVs. I am not referring to motorcycles and other types of motorized vehicles such as mopeds.

In Ontario, when a person dies with a Will and bequeaths a vehicle to a beneficiary, there are certain steps the Executor is required to take in order have the vehicle transferred to the named beneficiary in the Will. The transfer of a deceased person’s vehicle to a beneficiary is a similar process as transferring the ownership of a vehicle to a family member as a gift. The Executor will need to attend in person at a branch of Service Ontario with the following documentation in hand: a copy of the Will or the Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee With a Will, as the case may be, which confirms the Executor’s appointment and sets out the bequest of the vehicle to the beneficiary, Proof of Death Certificate, vehicle ownership papers, personal identification (Executor),  proof of insurance on the deceased’s vehicle, Safety Standards Certificate, Emissions test, a completed Sworn Statement for the Transfer of a Used Vehicle in the Province of Ontario and a completed plate transfer declaration if you are also transferring license plates. The list of requirements, although lengthy, are fairly standard when transferring ownership of a vehicle.

One of the listed requirements above that I would like to discuss is the requirement of a Safety Standards Certificate. What is a Safety Standards Certificate? A Safety Standards Certificate confirms that the vehicle has met the minimum safety standards on the date the Safety Standards Certificate was issued. It is not a warranty or guarantee of the vehicle’s present condition. A person can purchase and register a vehicle without a Safety Standards Certificate but will be unable to put license plates on a vehicle without a Safety Standards Certificate. What/Who is exempt? You do not need a Safety Standards Certificate if you are (i) registering a used motorized snow vehicle, off-road vehicle, motor-assisted bicycle (i.e moped), or trailer; or (ii) transferring the vehicle to a spouse. This is important to keep in mind if the beneficiary to receive the vehicle in the deceased’s Will is the deceased’s spouse.

One of the most important aspects of the transfer which will be of particular interest to the beneficiary is whether the transfer of the deceased’s vehicle is subject to retail sales tax. If a vehicle is being transferred to a buyer then yes, retail sales tax is applicable. The transfer of a deceased’s vehicle to a named beneficiary in the Will takes place without the payment of retail sales tax nor does it apply to the transfer of a vehicle to family members as a gift.

The transfer of ownership to a beneficiary named in a Will may seem to be a daunting process but wait until my next blog where I explore the transfer of ownership of pleasure crafts to a named beneficiary in a Will.

Boating anyone?

About Krista Brown
Krista Brown has worked in the legal profession for over 21 years. Krista has extensive experience in complex, high value estate planning, estate and trust administration as well as drafting Marriage Contracts for high net worth clients. Krista's experience also includes drafting wills, trusts, codicils, powers of attorney and cohabitation and marriage agreements.


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