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Ohio Changes Law Regarding Spouse’s Ability To Transfer Automobile Titles After Death

07.20.17 written by

Upon the death of a spouse, Ohio provides for a number of rights for the surviving spouse, even if the deceased spouse’s will provides otherwise.  Some of those rights include the right to a $40,000 family allowance, the right to live in the residence rent-free for a certain period of time, the right to purchase the residence, the right to elect against the deceased spouse’s will, the right to take up to one-half or one-third of the net estate depending on the number of children that the decedent had, and the right to take two automobiles.  Ohio has recently changed the statute pertaining to the right to two automobiles. 

Previously, Ohio Revised Code §2106.18 provided that upon the death of a married individual who owned at least one automobile at the time of death, the interest of the deceased spouse in that automobile which is not transferred to the surviving spouse due to being a joint owner with right of survivorship, and which is not transferred to a transfer on death beneficiary, and that has not otherwise specifically been given to another individual in a will, shall pass to the surviving spouse without going through probate.  That was the law until July 23, 2002.  At that time, Ohio changed the law and provided that up to two automobiles could be provided to the surviving spouse in this same manner.  Finally, in 2006, this law was amended to include a motorcycle as an automobile as well. 

Effective April 6, 2017, this law still exists; however, the transfer of automobiles is not limited to just two automobiles.  The surviving spouse is now entitled to as many automobiles as there are, as long as the sum total of the values of the automobiles selected by the surviving spouse does not exceed $65,000.  Again, each automobile that passes to the surviving spouse under this law shall not be considered an estate asset and shall not be included in the probate estate inventory.

Therefore, this change in the law will allow individuals who may have had more than two vehicles, and which are worth less than $65,000, to transfer all to the individual’s surviving spouse without being an estate asset.  This will certainly simplify a number of estates.  However, if there are certain vehicles that you do not want the spouse to have, then you should take the appropriate steps to make sure that you have either a will which transfers specific automobiles to specific individuals or take your automobile title to the title office that you wish to transfer to someone other than your spouse and add a transfer on death beneficiary to that other individual.  The former idea could still result in some issues, as it relates to various spousal rights.  However, the latter idea of establishing a transfer on death beneficiary designation at the title office to the specific individual that you want to have a particular title should accomplish your wishes.

If you have these types of situations, please make sure that you contact your estate planning attorney for advice regarding these matters.

NOTE: This general summary of the law should not be used to solve individual problems since slight changes in the fact situation may require a material variance in the applicable legal advice.

James F. Contini II, Esq.
Certified Specialist in Estate Planning,
Trust & Probate Law by the OSBA
Krugliak, Wilkins, Griffiths & Dougherty Co., LPA
158 North Broadway
New Philadelphia, Ohio 44663
Phone:  330-364-3472
Fax:   330-602-3187