How to File for a Lost Title That's Not in Your Name

When you purchase a car, you will have to get a legal document that establishes your proof of ownership. A car title is an important form that formally proves that you are the owner of the vehicle whether you are buying it new or used.

You can file for a lost title that is not in your name through the court of law by providing some legal documents as proof giving you the right to apply for the title, or through the DMV with the necessary documents to prove the vehicle belongs to you.

What is a Car Title?

A car title is an important part of the documentation required when you purchase a vehicle. It is the document that tells anyone that needs to know, who the owner of the car is. In essence, without a car title, you don’t have any legal ownership proof.

If you buy a secondhand car you must request for the transfer of title from the previous owner by taking a title request form to the court, duly signed by the previous owner.

To file for a car title that is lost and not in your name is doable but time-consuming and can be quite expensive.

You will need to do some paperwork with the previous owner if you can find them. You will visit a state office to fill out the paperwork to transfer the ownership from the previous owner to yourself.

However, if you can not reach the previous owner, maybe due to distance or death, you will be required to get a surety bond and apply for a bonded title, this is done through the state government.

You will need to pay a fee and then submit some documents that include, the proof of payment made to the previous owner for the car or in the case of a dead relative, a statement of how you came into possession of the car, for example, a will, your photo ID.

Can You File for a Lost Title That’s Not in Your Name?

Yes, you can file a lost title that is not in your name.

To file for a lost title that isn’t in your name is quite difficult but doable, you will need to tender several documents to the court of law.

You can also apply for a lost title that is not in your name through the government agency for vehicle registration in your state. This requires a fee and pieces of paperwork, thus it is expensive and time-consuming.

You might be in the possession of a dead relative’s vehicle through a will or because of your relationship with the deceased, however, the title will still be in the previous owner’s name.

In this case, you can file for the car title by showing proof of your relationship with the deceased that entitles you to their property and or a will that states that you are a beneficiary to the deceased property.

If you are the deceased next of kin, you just have to provide a photo ID to identify yourself to file for a new car title when you lose the previous one in the deceased name.

How to File for a Lost Title That’s Not in Your Name

You will need to transfer the title under your name and in the case of a loss in the title, you will need to go with a proof of purchase like a sale of contract or receipt, the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number), and a duplicate title request form. The owner of the lost title must have signed the duplicate title request form for validity.

The DMV will accept a bill of sale and contact the previous owner to confirm the vehicle transfer, and then they will issue you a new title.

In the case where the previous owner is a dead relative, you will need to provide a statement of how you have come to the possession of the vehicle, whether the relative left you a share of their estate in their will or if they do not have a will, their next of kin.

If the deceased previous owner of the car title left without a will, you will have to provide evidence of your relationship with the deceased, say the child or sibling, a statement to back this up, and why you are the one to take possession of the vehicle in question. This is easier to file if you can provide the necessary documents to back up your case.

How to Find Out Who Holds The Title on a Vehicle

To find out who holds the title on a vehicle, you need to:

  • Find the VIN: This is a 17-digit number and alphabets combination specific to each vehicle. This number cannot be the same for two cars, it is unique to a vehicle and can be traced.
  • Find the VIN Through the Vehicle Insurance Information: Cars are not allowed to be driven on the road without being covered by car insurance.
  • A Car Title Search: some states offer title search databases like the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System in the US where you can check vehicle history. There are also paid car title providers that can help you with the car title.

The report provided from this database will give you information such as whether the vehicle odometer has been tampered with to give a wrong mileage, has been salvaged, rebuilt, returned to the manufacturer at some point, or has spent time at the junkyard.

Final Thoughts

It is uncommon to lose a car title because most people don’t go around with it after it has been used to file for car insurance. And this is before you can be allowed to start driving as it is the law.

It is important to note that it is not all cars that will be eligible for a new car title. Vehicles that are legally abandoned, stolen, in a pending court case, or junked are not eligible for a new title.