My mother-in-law died. Can I transfer her car out of her name without going to court?

My mother-in-law passed away. She didn’t have a will. All she had was debts. And an old car that might be worth $1,000. Do I have to become the administrator of her estate to deal with the car? It seems like it’s not worth the money or effort.



Powell River, BC

The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) is responsible for vehicle registration and licensing in BC. It sets its own rules about what documents it requires to transfer a vehicle out of a deceased’s name. 

You’ll need to contact an Autoplan broker to help you transfer the ownership of the car. If the car was owned jointly with someone else, then it can be transferred to that person. Otherwise, the car can be transferred to someone who wants to buy it or to an heir of the deceased. (There are different considerations if the estate is insolvent or bankrupt, or if the car is collateral for a secured debt.)

In some cases, ICBC may allow someone to transfer the car without getting a grant of administration. This includes the case where there’s no will and the estate is worth less than $25,000. Here are some documents the broker may need to transfer the car:

  • An original or notarized copy of the death certificate.

  • A notarized copy of ICBC form “estate declaration $25,000 and under” (MV1476). With the form, you declare that anyone entitled to a share of the estate consents to the transfer. 

  • A fully completed transfer/tax form (APV9T)

  • The current vehicle registration. This is usually kept in the glove box.

  • You may need to bring in the vehicle’s plates. If you are the surviving spouse, you may apply to keep the plates (without a decal) as a memento. Ask the broker what further documentation you’ll need. 

Certain assets fall outside of the estate

Note you only need to count estate assets when figuring out whether the estate is worth less than $25,000. Certain types of assets fall outside of the estate. These include assets with a named beneficiary (such as life insurance) or assets held in as joint tenants. For more, see this coverage of assets that typically fall outside of a will (or estate).

Dealing with debts

If an administrator does deal with estate assets, there are rules they must follow. For example, they must deal with creditors before they distribute any assets to heirs. And if the estate is insolvent, the administrator must pay the estate debts in order of priority as set out under the law. Depending on the circumstances, it’s also possible that a trustee in bankruptcy will be appointed to deal with the debts.

Katrina Law

Katrina Law

Westcoast Wills & Estates
  • This information applies to British Columbia, Canada
  • Reviewed for legal accuracy in October 2023

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