Title Transfers after a Death

Transferring the title of a vehicle after an owner has passed away can be a stressful event. The Linn County Treasurer's Office wants to help make the process as easy as possible. This webpage outlines the most common scenarios for transferring a vehicle title after the owner is deceased. Please contact our office for more information if your specific situation is not addressed.

Iowa Code section 633.350 requires that when a person dies, their property passes to the person(s) to whom it is devised in the will or the person(s) who succeed to the estate as provided in the probate code. There is no provision under Iowa law for the vehicle title to pass to the estate; therefore, the County Treasurer may not issue a vehicle title in an estate’s name. 

  1. Title in Name of Decedent Only

Decedent’s Estate in Probate

If the estate is probated, the legal representative (Executor or Administrator) shall make an assignment of title and the following documents are required to transfer title to the transferee (which may also be the legal representative, but is not required to be):

• Letter of Appointment showing the name of the court-appointed legal representative of the estate.

• Decedent’s original title assigned to the transferee on the back of the title by the legal representative with their signature and printed name as “seller.” If the original title is not available, the legal representative must apply for a replacement title.

• Odometer disclosure and damage disclosure when applicable, completed on the back of the title by the legal representative with their signature and printed name as the “seller.” Transferee must acknowledge the disclosures with their signature and printed name as the “buyer.”

• Bill of Sale properly completed, signed by the legal representative, and given to the transferee.

• Application for Certificate of Iowa Title (form 411007) must be completed by the transferee.


Estate Not Probated, Decedent Had a Will

If the estate was not probated but the decedent had a will, under the laws of the State of Iowa and according to the decedent’s will, the person(s) entitled to possession and ownership of the vehicle must apply for a certificate of title and transfer the title to themselves first before selling the vehicle to another party. The following documents are required:

• Decedent’s original title, if available.

• Copy of death certificate, unless the date of death is recorded in the State of Iowa motor vehicle system.

• Affidavit of Death Testate (form 411083) signed by the person(s) named as beneficiary in the decedent’s will, in the presence of a notary.

• Odometer disclosure and damage disclosure when applicable, via forms 411099 and 411108, respectively. Mileage will be Not Actual.

• Application for Certificate of Iowa Title (form 411007) completed by the inheritor.


Estate Not Probated, Decedent Had No Will

If the estate was not probated and the decedent had no will, the person entitled to ownership under the laws of descent and distribution (a.k.a. next of kin) shall apply for a certificate of title and must transfer the title to themselves first before selling to another party. The following documents are required:

• Decedent’s original title, if available.

• Copy of death certificate., unless the date of death is recorded in the State of Iowa motor vehicle system.

• Affidavit of Death Intestate (form 411088) signed by next of kin in the presence of a notary.

• Odometer disclosure and damage disclosure when applicable, via forms 411099 and 411108, respectively. Mileage will be Not Actual.

• Application for Certificate of Iowa Title (form 411007) completed by next of kin.

  1. Title in Joint Ownership with "Or"

If there is more than one owner and the names are connected on the title with “or” upon the death of one of the owners, the surviving joint owner(s) becomes the owner(s) of the vehicle assuming no other inheritor of the decedent has a valid legal claim. The surviving owner(s) may retain ownership or may transfer the title to someone else. However, the ability to renew the vehicle registration in the future requires the surviving owner(s) to complete a title transfer to remove the decedent’s name before the Iowa Department of Transportation deactivates the decedent’s record from the State of Iowa motor vehicle system (approximately one year from date of death).


Surviving Owner(s) Retains Possession

The following documents are required to transfer to the surviving owner(s) only:

• The original title must be assigned on the back of the title to the surviving owner(s) and a surviving owner must sign as “seller".

• Odometer disclosure and damage disclosure are not required; odometer reading will be used from the front of the title.

Application for Certificate of Iowa Title (form 411007) completed by the surviving owner(s).


Surviving Owner(s) Transfers Ownership

The following documents are required to transfer to someone else:

• The original title assigned to the transferee on the back of the title by the surviving owner(s) with the owner(s) signature and printed name as “seller".

• Odometer disclosure and damage disclosure when applicable, completed on the back of the title by a surviving owner with their signature and printed name as the “seller.” Transferee must acknowledge the disclosures with their signature and printed name as “buyer.”

Bill of Sale (PDF) properly completed, signed by a surviving owner, and given to the transferee.

Application for Certificate of Iowa Title (form 411007) completed by the transferee.

  1. Title in Joint Ownership with "And"

If there is more than one owner and the names are connected on the title with “and” upon the death of one of the owners, the surviving owner(s) as well as a legal representative of the decedent must complete a title transfer to remove the decedent’s name. Due to the complex nature of this type of transaction, or if all titled owners are deceased (whether titled with “or” or “and”), please contact our office for more information.