Chelsey Tucker graduated with a Bachelor of History degree from Metropolitan State University in 2019. She now writes about insurance with her specialty being life insurance and has been quoted on Help Smart Phone and MEL Magazine.

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years. He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like Reviews.com.

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Mar 19, 2020

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The lowdown...

  • An insurance policy may expire at the time of the policyholder’s death or the policy may remain in place for a specified term
  • No one should drive a deceased person’s car without making sure insurance is in place
  • Seek professional counsel to find answers to questions about deceased persons and related insurance policies

The unfortunate passing of a friend or loved one brings about much grief and sadness. In addition to the emotional turmoil, there are legal and estate-related issues to consider.

Just because a surviving spouse or other relative is not well-versed in probate or other legal statutes does not mean he/she has civil immunity from making an incorrect assumption. Treading carefully with every decision is a must.

A surviving relative should not assume that getting behind the wheel of a deceased person’s car comes without any risks. In particular, there may be risks associated with whether or not insurance coverage remains in place.

If not, then all the weight of the liabilities associated with an accident could crash down on the shoulders of the driver. The age-old “ignorance of the law” excuse simply won’t fly.

As such, it would be unwise to drive a deceased person’s car without clarifying the status of the insurance.

Compare car insurance quotes right here to find the best rate for the coverage you need.

The Policy’s Rules

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Not all auto insurance policies have the same rules in effect when the primary policyholder dies. A policy could become void upon the death of the policyholder.

Upon death, the policy could remain in effect for 60 days or six months or even for the remaining life of the term. Persons named on the policy as “additional or named insured” might very well be covered if this is the case.

Additionally, the executor of the estate may be covered on a limited basis due to the executor’s fiduciary duty to care for the estate. Such a provision for the executor would need to exist in writing in the policy or under applicable state law.

The only way to know for sure about how is covered in a policy after a death is to read the policy.

Better yet, upon the death of the policyholder, a phone call should be made to the insurance company. The customer service representative should provide a reliable answer.

Be sure to have an email sent referencing the clause in the policy contract that deals with deceased drivers just to be on the safe side.

Probate lawyers can be relied upon to research these things. If the estate enters into probate, a family law attorney should be able to advise a client on matters related to car and other insurance policies.

Just do not make the mistake of assuming anything. Policies are very specific. Questions about the policy must be clearly verified by a professional in the know.

Still, survivors should perform a little research into the basics of auto policies and how the death of a policyholder impacts things.

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The Named Insured

The insurance policy could include a “named insured” or similar provision that extends the coverage to other persons on the policy.

Anyone on the policy might still be able to continue to be covered after the main policyholder’s death if the policy remains in effect. Those covered may include:

  • a spouse
  • a child
  • a designated driver

Again, verifying such things with the insurance company is a must before driving a deceased owner’s vehicle. The continual rule here is to always acquire documented confirmation from the insurance company.

Transferring Ownership of the Car

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Transferring the ownership of a vehicle or vehicles from a deceased person to a living person could eliminate a lot of question marks and problems.

Upon death, the property of the deceased is controlled by the estate. A will, if one exists, would need to be probated. Depending upon the law in a certain state, certain things do not need to go through probate to completion in the courts.

If it is possible to transfer the ownership of the deceased vehicle to a living person, doing so right away makes sense. The new owner of the car can then purchase a new insurance policy.

Comparison shopping for the very best rates increases the chances of locating a truly outstanding policy. Even those who are high-risk drivers may be able to locate a solid policy that provides adequate coverage.

Good drivers really should not be locked into paying high premiums. Comparison shopping might reveal outstanding rates that otherwise proved elusive to locate.

The key point here is to get a proper policy in place right away. The vehicle’s insurance policy may be in place, but there needs to be no ambiguity about who is covered under the policy.

Another option does exist and it may be worth examining.

Non-Owner Insurance

One option to explore would be the purchase of nonowner auto insurance. This type of policy is usually acquired by people who rent cars or even borrow them.

The crux of this type of insurance is to provide coverage to someone who is driving a vehicle owned by another person. In the case of a deceased owner, the non-owner insurance could likely cover someone who needs to drive a vehicle owned by an estate.

Before getting behind the wheel of the deceased’s or any vehicle, make sure a nonowner insurance policy would be in effect.

Even though this type of policy is rather broad, there may be parameters that must be met.

Check with the insurance company to be sure a nonowner policy would apply to a vehicle owned by an estate.

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Protection Against Liability and Losses

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Getting the right coverage in place is critical when needing to avert losses as a result of getting into an accident.

With this accident risk in mind, drivers worried about their financial health do need to seriously consider purchasing the best possible insurance policy along with an adequate amount of insurance.

Comparison shopping definitely would assist with acquiring solid coverage in a relatively smooth fashion.

Not rushing into things would help a lot as well. Reliable confirmation about the status of the deceased’s policy should come from an insurance company and a probate lawyer.

Compare car insurance options today to make sure you’re prepared and protected.