22 April 2013

Losses and Lessons: Title trouble makes loss of ’67 Chevelle tougher to take

VEHICLE COVERED: 1967 Chevrolet Chevelle

WHAT WENT WRONG: Without question, in the world of classic cars and insurance claims, there’s no loss quite as painful as a total loss – especially when the owner has a deep emotional attachment to the car. Add some red tape to the claims process, and that pain is magnified many times over.

In this case, the owner of a red 1967 Chevrolet Chevelle, her late husband’s pride and joy, stored the car in a detached garage along with three other vehicles. An electrical short in a spare refrigerator started a fire, which led to an explosion, and the garage and its contents were destroyed.

DAMAGE/LOSS: All four cars in the garage were burned almost beyond recognition. Hagerty paid the Chevelle’s $25,000 Guaranteed Value (minus a $250 deductible), but when the owner attempted to deposit the check, the bank required the consent of her husband’s estate. The problem? While she had removed her husband’s name from the insurance policy, she had failed to remove his name from the Chevelle’s title. Now the couple’s son has been forced to go through the process of obtaining executor status again, which not only requires time but also involves attorney and court fees.

LESSON: Title your cars properly. Fixing an incorrect title can be costly and time consuming, two things that no one wants – particularly a grieving family. Also keep this advice in mind when you purchase a non-running car. Sometimes it takes longer than expected to make it road worthy again, and with no need for plates or registration, the title is an easy thing to forget or neglect.

15 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Shiri Atl April 24, 2013 at 14:10
    If a WILL existed and the Father gave the cars to his son in the WILL, it would be a lot cheaper and no hassle about title ownership..
  • 2
    Fred Virginia April 24, 2013 at 15:01
    Be sure to check the VIN on the title of any car you are looking at to buy. Make sure all the VIN's you can find on the car match the VIN on the title. This is especially true when buying a car out of area. If a DMV in another state makes an error on the VIN on the title you will have to go back to that state to get it fixed. Your state DMV will not correct an error made by another state's DMV.
  • 3
    Dave Evans Fort Defiance VA April 24, 2013 at 15:17
    I just went through something like this in NJ settling my dad's estate. My advice to anyone in this situation is have the former executor sign the check and tell the bank make the deposit. If they balk, offer a release from the insurance company indemnifying them and if that fails get a new bank. This is exactly the kind of nonsense that low level clerks pull on already troubled people for reasons I will never understand. Don't stand for it. Both the New Jersey department of motor vehicles and my local bank in NJ have done everything possible to ease the process for me in spite of similar complications. Really good people. A story like this would have my friend at Unity Bank in North Plainfield NJ ready to kill. It just gives bank people everywhere a bad name and there's no reason, legal or otherwise, to be a jerk.
  • 4
    Lee Texas April 24, 2013 at 15:46
    @Shiri No, this problem exists regardless of the existence of a will. Note "executor" status. That means executor of the will. When probated, the executor is named and he/she "executes" the will. The problem here is that he failed to change the title while acting as executor, so he has to re-open the will for probate. It's more of a pain in the butt than an expense. Note, if you die without a will, a "trustee" is appointed, not an executor.
  • 5
    Paul M. Malecki Albany, NY April 24, 2013 at 17:22
    Added to the usual problems of quieting automobile title, people should be aware that changes in Federal bank clearing house rules, about a year ago, have pretty much resulted in most banks declining to accept third-party checks. In my real estate practice this means no longer being able to have a buyer come to the closing with a bank check made out him/herself for endorsement over at the table -- a safeguard in case something goes wrong with the purchase at the last minute. While the bank in the lead story was "just following the rules," it does say something about the unwillingness of some people to take responsibility for their own actions -- rather, they take the way out that is easy for them (although not for the person on the other side of the counter). Albert Camus must be spinning in his grave.
  • 6
    Ray Hays Jacksonville, FL April 24, 2013 at 17:26
    Fred is partly mistaken. It depends on the state. The Washington State title of my '68 280SL actually listed the VIN as 1968280SL. Here in Florida, I just had to produce the bill of sale, and the Washington title and registration. A DMV person walked out to the car with me, verified the VIN on the car, and updated the Florida title to match. Still, the lesson is to make sure that your title ends up correctly done with the proper owner names.
  • 7
    L Snell Penrose Co. April 24, 2013 at 18:04
    My problem was similar in that I didn't remove my wife's name from the insurance when she pass away . Hagerty issued me a claim check in both our names . I called my credit union and they still had a death certificate on file and let me endorse the check with my name and her's by spouse and indicate wife deceased . Still caused some worry til it was squared away . Policy is now in my name only . Thanx for all the good service Hagerty
  • 8
    Leo Laliberte Stockbridge Ga April 25, 2013 at 05:35
    I have a 1966 auto......I did not think, at least in this state, I even need a title for this car if I were to sell it??? Enlighten please.thx
  • 9
    Dick Chambers United States April 27, 2013 at 16:40
    Erroneous VIN made by DMV in other states, I had that problem with an after market frame. My state first told me that I had to interface with the other state until I established that I had held the VIN before the other state had registered it. My state then witnessed and verified my VIN and relieved me of the problem. They then placed it back on the offending state. Please always verify the VIN with the title paperwork.
  • 10
    Rich Storlie Lakeville, MN April 28, 2013 at 13:06
    If you own any parts cars, double check to make sure that you haven't insured one of your parts cars instead of your restored classic. I did that and luckily I found the error and corrected it, but my parts car was insured for years and my classic was not. During that time, I had a couple of close calls that could have required a claim.
  • 11
    Conrad Kerwath Atlanta April 30, 2013 at 13:18
    Leo.....In Georgia the State is very generous. No title on anything over 10 years old. However if you are selling to someone in another state you will most likely need a title. Georgia became a title state in 1963. Hope this helps.
  • 12
    David NJ May 29, 2013 at 20:31
    I have a classic INDY Pace car that needs to be retitled. I would like to keep the original title because of historic reasons (titled to original owner on date of race). I have been told that in order to title it in NJ, I will need to turn in the old title. Is there anyway to get around this, such as retitle in a state that doesn't require a title, just a bill of sale, then use that title to retitle in NJ?
  • 13
    Dave Rubel Peachtree City, GA May 30, 2013 at 10:44
    Georgia is a real dilemma when dealing with older car titles, they will not issue a title for any car 1962 or older. Last year I purchased a 1962 Corvette and when I tried to transfer the title all I got was a license registration receipt. I don’t know what will happen if I sell it out of state, or have to prove ownership. Luckily Georgia is a community property state so my wife automatically owns half of everything we have and our will gives her the other half. The only real proof of ownership I have is the signed title from Oregon where the car was registered and a bill of sale from the previous owner.
  • 14
    louis prophete Florida May 31, 2013 at 02:54
    I had a similar experience with incorrect recorded VIN no while transferring my 1940 Chevy 2dr business man coupe from NYC to FL. The NY DMV had altered one character in the Title, Florida discovered the error requested I bring the car to the FL DMV office for VIN verification which resolved the issue.
  • 15
    Dean Reitan Calgary, AB, Canada July 12, 2013 at 15:22
    Another reason why I'm soooo happy we don't require vehicle titles in Canada.

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