How Do I Transfer a Title When Donating a Car?

by Scott Krohn

The documentation required to donate a vehicle centers on the certificate of title, which must be completed and signed by the donor and an authorized official of the receiving charity. Additional steps in this process will be necessary if are liens placed against the title or if the vehicle is being donated by an estate.

Clearing the Title

The first step to transfer the title for a donation is to ensure that there are no liens placed against the vehicle, as the DMV will not transfer ownership if the title has been encumbered by a lienholder. The most common lienholders are institutions that provide financing for vehicle purchases. This type of lien will be released when the loan has been paid in full. Mechanic’s and garage keeper’s liens are placed against vehicle titles for unpaid repairs or storage. These liens are released when the full invoice balance due to the lienholder is satisfied.

Releasing the Title

To release a clean title, the donor provides a signature and completes the section related to the seller or owner. In most states, this section can be found on the back of the title. All people listed as owners on this document must provide signatures to release the vehicle to the charity. Some states, including Ohio, North Carolina and Montana, require notarized signatures of the donors to transfer vehicle titles. Donors’ names should be completed in exactly the same way as they are printed on the title. For example, using initials when the printed title shows a full first and middle name might not be considered by the DMV as a legal release of title. The mileage on the vehicle’s odometer at the time of the donation also is required information.

Completing the Transferee Section

Generally speaking, state officials that govern charitable vehicle donations recommend that donors identify the charity by name as the transferee, fill in the charity’s address and retain copies of all transfer information included on the certificate of title. The requirement for the signatures on the title varies between states. For example, Georgia requires a signature, while Ohio requires the notarized signature of an authorized officer of the charity. To transfer ownership after the donor’s and charity’s sections have been completed, the title and any state-specific documentation can be submitted to the DMV or equivalent office.

Donating from an Estate

The process of transferring a vehicle title for a donation from an estate depends on state laws, whether there is a surviving spouse and the size of the estate. Some states, including Ohio, California and Arizona, allow for sole owners to name a charity as a beneficiary on the title. Referred to as a Transfer on Death Title, the charity named as the beneficiary can facilitate the donation by submitting the title, a certified death certificate and state-specific documentation to the DMV. If the vehicle is being donated from an estate small enough to avoid probate and there is a surviving spouse, title can be released by the spouse to the designated charity after submitting the title, death certificate and small estate exemption paperwork to the DMV. If the estate goes through the probate process, the executor or court appointed administrator transfers the title to the charity.

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