Taking a Name off a Car Title: A Step-by-Step Guide

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Removing a name from a car title is similar to the process of selling the car or transferring ownership to another person.
If you own the vehicle, taking a name off the title is straightforward, with the person being removed from the title listed as the “seller” and the person remaining on the title listed as the “buyer.” If the car is owned by a lienholder, you’ll need their permission first in order to adjust the title.
Remember—it is vital for the person remaining on the car’s title to have car insurance. With Jerry, you can easily get quotes from the top insurers in the country without forms, phone calls, or hassles!
For the nitty-gritty of how to take a name off a car title, read on.
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Preparing to remove a name from a car title

It is important to treat the removal of a name from a car title as a sale, because the process is the same.
The first step is for the person being removed from the title to complete the back section of the title as if they were selling the car. This person is considered the “seller”.
The person who will remain on the car’s title will be listed as the “buyer,” and hence will remain on title.
The “buyer” will then take the signed title to the DMV to complete the steps of getting a new title issued.

Check names currently on the title

In order to transfer the title, you’ll have to pay attention to whether the names on the title are joined by “and,” “or” or in some cases “and/or.” This applies to every state but Arizona—we’ll deal with the Grand Canyon state below.
Normally, if the names on the title are joined by “and,” then both people on the title will have to sign as “sellers,” and the person to remain on the title will be listed as the “buyer”.
If both names on the title are joined by “or,” or “and/or,” then only one person needs to sign as the “seller,” and the person who will remain on the title can be listed as “buyer”.
In Arizona, if both names on the title are joined by “and/or”, it is treated the same as if both names were simply joined by “and”—both people listed must sign as sellers.
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Dealing with lienholders

Removing a name from a car title is a bit different if a lienholder is also listed on the title, and in this case, you have a few options.
If you’re able to pay off your loan in full to the lienholder, you’ll be able to proceed without their input. But if paying off your loan isn’t possible, you’ll need the lienholder’s permission to change the title.
If the lienholder won’t agree to make a change, you won’t be allowed to remove the desired name from the title.

Completing the transfer

The person being removed from the title must sign as the “seller,” while the person remaining on the title needs to sign as the “buyer.” Remember to heed the conjunction used on the title, as detailed above.

Pay attention

Amidst all the excitement of removing a name from a car title, don’t get carried away — any errors or legibility issues may cause the DMV to reject your application.
Some states require signatures to be notarized when changing or removing names from a title. Check with your state DMV to be sure.
Also, some states require the transfer be completed in-person at the DMV. Check with the DMV in your state and, if necessary, make an appointment to complete the title process in person.

Take forms to DMV

Some states allow you to mail in completed paperwork, but some require an in-person visit.
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Special cases

Sometimes, the reason a name is being taken off a title impacts the process.

Divorce

In cases such as a divorce, any title change must match the divorce agreement.
So, for instance, if your ex-spouse gets full ownership of a formerly shared car as per your divorce settlement, this must be reflected in the title. In this case, you would sign as the “seller,” while your ex-spouse would sign as “buyer,” putting the car’s title in their possession.
Most states charge a sales tax on any car title changes. However, some states will waive the tax if a divorce order accompanies the application for title change. Check with the DMV in your state.

Treating a gift as a transfer

If a car is being gifted, say from a parent to a child, the process is straightforward - here, a parent would sign the back of the title as the “seller,” while the child would sign as the “buyer” with a sale price of $0.

Changing title to show a charitable donation

Many people make donations—including vehicles—to charity. Removing your name from a title, in this case, involves the same process.
In this case, you would sign the back of the title certificate as “seller.” The charitable organization, or a representative of it, would sign the title as “buyer” in order to transfer title to them, with a sale price of $0.
At this point, it is the responsibility of the charity to complete the rest of the title process, including taking the title to the DMV to finalize the transfer.

Death

In case of death, there are a few options to remove the deceased from a car title. It may be a good idea to hire a probate lawyer to make sure the transfer is carried out properly.
If a spouse passes away, you can take the title in to the DMV along with a copy of the death certificate.
In the case of a car being left to someone in a will, the executor of the estate needs to submit a certificate or affidavit along with the transfer application.
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Frequently asked questions

If the process to take the name off a car title is the same as selling, does any money change hands in the title transfer?

No money changes hands in the transfer of a title. The person being removed from the title signs as the seller and “sells” the title of the car to the buyer, or whoever is remaining on the car’s title.

There are two names on my car title. How do I remove one?

The same principle applies for taking your name off a car title. One owner would be considered the “seller” and the other a “buyer.” From there, you just have to go the DMV to remove your name from a title.

If I donate a car to a charity and transfer the title, can I claim a tax deduction?

Yes. If you donate a car to charity, you can claim the value of the car as a tax deduction. However, this only applies if you are donating the vehicle to a recognized 501 (c)(3) charity.

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