Legal Question in Wills and Trusts in Pennsylvania


My mom passed away. She has a car that is registered in her name, has a loan on it and is on her car insurance. She sold the car to a girl that she worked with and she pays my dad a payment every month since my mom passed however everything is in my mom's name. I have called this girl twice because she needs to get a loan to pay my dad off and then we can everything switched to her name. She does not return phone calls. There was a written agreement written that mom and this girl signed that if one or the other passed the living person became owner of the vehicle. However everything, the loan, the registration and the insurance are in my mom's name. Can we go take the vehicle back?


Janet Medbed

Asked on 11/18/13, 11:14 am

1 Answer from Attorneys


Neither I nor any attorney has seen the contract made by your mother and the buyer. However, just on the facts you relate this was done stupidly. Its not a criticism of you or your mother - but this was just the wrong way to sell a car.

If your mother sold the car, the car should have been titled in the buyer's name so that the buyer could insure the vehicle. Your mother would then be listed as a lienholder on the title.

The problem here is that your mother had a lien already on the title. She could not have "sold" it to anyone. Your mother took a huge risk in doing this - what if the girl was in an accident and hurt someone or destroyed the car? Not to mention that if the car insurer found out that the car was not at your mother's and being driven by your mother they would treat this as fraud and deny any claims. So this was not good.

Now that your mother is dead, you have a real problem. Sure, if you have the key you can go and grab the car. But then the buyer will find herself without a car and will sue your mother's estate for the money back so I would not recommend doing that until the personal representative has spoken to an attorney.

I don't know what the balance is on the car or whether your mother had a will or not. Generally, the rule is that an heir inherits liened property subject to any existing loans. So if your mother made a valid will leaving the girl this car if she died, then the girl might just be able to get the car in her name and insurance in her name but have to pay off the loan and deal with the lender.

If your mother did not make a valid will leaving the girl the car, then the buyer has a choice - to get the car refinanced in a car loan in her name or give the car back or work out some other kind of deal with the personal representative of your mother's estate (I assume your father). But I don't know what's left owing on the car or if this will work.

The personal representative for the estate needs to find an estate attorney and if none then go and pay for a consult with a probate attorney who practices in the county where the estate is or would be probated for your mother. If there is no will, then your father would be the presumptive personal representative and he should meet with the attorney. The attorney needs to review all of the documentation and see how best to handle this. Perhaps the attorney can contact the buyer and work out some agreement.

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Answered on 11/18/13, 11:37 pm

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