The process for transferring the ownership of a vehicle in France on death of the owner.
If you inherit a vehicle, whether you intend to keep it or to sell it you will normally need to register it in your name.
Only in three circumstances is re-registration not necessary:
- When the vehicle is sent for destruction to a 'casse' (centre Véhicule hors d'usage – VHU – agréé).
- When the vehicle is sold by the heir(s) less than three months after the death of the owner
- When the vehicle is sold and it has not been used on the public highway since death of the owner.
To undertake the formalities, you will need to go on-line at ANTs (Agence nationale des titres sécurisés) and make a déclaration de cession without the need for prior re-registration of the vehicle. You will need access to a scanner to send the necessary documents.
We consider below the process that applies in three different circumstances.
i. Joint Names
Where the registration is in the joint names of the spouse and the deceased, and the spouse wishes to keep the vehicle, all that is usually required is for the spouse to apply to change their marital status on the registration certificate (certificat d’immatriculation/carte grise), and the vehicle will then be shown as being owned solely by the surviving spouse.
On the ANTs website you need to go to 'Signaler un changement sur ma situation personnelle' and then 'Ajouter ou retirer un co-titulaire'.
You will need to complete the online Demande d’immatriculation (Cerfa n° 13750*05) and supply:
- The existing registration certificate;
- A copy of your passport;
- The MOT of the vehicle and;
- The death certificate.
You should also send a recent utility bill with your name on it.
The transfer of a vehicle to a surviving spouse is without charge or taxes.
ii. Sole Name of Deceased
If the registration is in the sole name of the deceased, and the surviving spouse or other heir wishes to have the registration transferred to their name, then it will be necessary to produce a range of documents.
The process is often complicated by the inheritance status of the vehicle, which may be shared between several hiers. It is obviously easier where there is a French marriage contract (communauté universelle) as the vehicle belongs automatically to the surviving spouse.
What might be required in terms of documentation will vary somewhat depending upon your exact circumstances, but they are likely to include originals or copies of:
- Proof of your identity;
- The existing vehicle registration certificate;
- Your driving licence;
- A certificate of car insurance;
- A recent utility bill confirming address;
- The MOT certificate (contrôle technique) if the vehicle is over 4 years old;
- An agreement to you taking possession, approved by all other heirs. That must be authorised by a notaire, a judge or in some cases, a certificate of inheritance (certificat d’hérédité) issued by your local mayor;
- If the vehicle is in the joint names of the surviving spouse and the deceased, and it is not to be transferred to the surviving spouse, a signed declaration, which should also be witnessed, from any surviving spouse, that they agree to you inheriting the vehicle;
- Ideally (though it is not always possible), some form of Will or declaration from the deceased that the vehicle is to pass to you upon their death.
If the surviving spouse wishes to retain the vehicle the process should normally be commenced within three months of death.
Once these formalities have been approved, the new registration certificate can be issued. However, whilst many such transfers are routine, queries and delays are not unusual.
It is possible that ANTs may issue you with a temporary carte grise permitting you to drive the vehicle until the formalities are completed.
The normal taxes and charges apply for the transfer of a second-hand vehicle where it is transferred to any other person.
iii. Sale of Vehicle
If the buyer is purchasing the vehicle within 3 months of the death, there is no need to separately register the vehicle prior to the sale, provided you are not proposing to use it on the public highway.
If the vehicle is being sold more than three months after the death, in order to avoid registration you will need to swear in writing (attestation sur l’honneur) that neither you nor the other heirs have driven it in the interim period.
If you propose to drive the vehicle before sale you will need to register it in your name, adopting the formalities above.
The transfer formalities will be carried out in collaboration with the buyer, which are set out in our Guide to Transfer of Vehicle Ownership.
In addition, the heir(s) should provide the buyer with a certificate of death, evidence that they are the heir and have the signed authorisation (procuration) of the other heirs to sell the vehicle. If there is supporting paperwork from the notaire dealing with the succession, then so much the better.