When titling a vehicle or mobile home with the SC Department of Motor Vehicle (hereinafter DMV), you may want to consider checking the “or” box on the title application (Form 400 in Section 3 – Owner Information). Mobile homes have titles and are considered cars in SC, unless they are formally reclassified with tax assessor’s office and detitled with the DMV with a redeeding of the house and land over to the owner.
If co-owners or spouses check the “and” box, the owners names will appear as “John Doe and Jane Doe” or “John Smith and Mary Beth Jones. Both signatures are required to sell the vehicle, obtain information for tax or loan purposes, or to transfer tags, which means both parties may need to be available at the same time and that can be inconvenient. If Jane Doe dies, then her interest must pass through probate and a fee or tax will be assessed against ½ the value of the vehicle or house. This is also true if only one name is on the title. Transferring a descendant’s interest can be a lengthy process and have surprising results when someone dies without a will, a circumstance that can easily be avoided by just checking “or”. This past year we spent months and months tracking and transferring title on a nice older car in good running condition from one deceased spouse’s estate to the other, and then through an estate sale. The loan had been sold and resold, then the title moved through several out of state banks that had been bought out in bank failure.
Checking the “or” box creates a “joint tenancy with right of survivorship”, meaning either of the owners can sell the vehicle, transfer tags, or obtain information on the vehicle for loan or tax purposes without the other owner’s signature. The owners’ names will appear on the title as “John Doe or Jane Doe”. This way of titling ownership is appropriate for spouses, lifetime companions, or when an elderly parent wants to pass property without having to probate an estate. If the property is titled as “or”, the vehicle does not pass through probate and the descendant’s interest in the vehicle or mobile home automatically passes to the living owner, thus saving time and money.
To view the required form online for transferring ownership of a vehicle or mobile home, visit www.scdmvonline.com/DMVNew/forms/400.pdf.
Disclaimer: Information contained in this column is meant to be of general information on frequently asked questions concerning disability, elder law, estate planning and probate law, and does not contain specific legal advice to a client. No attorney-client relationship is created by reading this column.