Mathew B. Sims is Editor-in-Chief and has authored, edited, and contributed to several books. He has been working in the insurance industry ensuring content is accurate for consumers who are searching for the best policies and rates. He has also been featured on sites like UpJourney.

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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 (BBB A+). 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 and Safeco. He reviews content, ensuring that ex...

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Jun 18, 2020

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Things to remember...

  • Some policies will remain in force after someone dies, but only specified drivers will be covered
  • The insurance company should be notified right away following someone’s death
  • If there is a surviving spouse, the plan should transfer smoothly

Liability insurance is required in almost every state, and many people will choose to carry more comprehensive plans.

What happens to auto insurance when someone dies? In the event that a policyholder passes away, his or her heirs should understand what will happen with the automobile insurance so that they can take the appropriate steps.

What happens to car insurance when someone dies (usually the policyholder) can be tricky. You should not drive a deceased person’s vehicle until you get the title transferred and auto insurance in your name. A surviving spouse or executor of deceased driver’s estate will inherit the policy. This transfer requires a death certificate, probate form, or an executor of estate document. You may have addition questions like “Can I drive my mother’s car after she dies?” or “Is it illegal to drive a car registered to a deceased person?”

It depends on the scenario, which we will go into next.

Enter your zip code above and find a low-cost auto insurance company that’ll take care of you and make sure you’re covered in the event of a death.

What happens to car insurance when a spouse dies?

If there is a spouse on the policy, then everything should transfer right over to the surviving partner. This individual would continue to make payments in order to keep the policy active.

Generally, the policy will still suit the spouse’s needs, but they can always have adjustments made to the limits.

There may be some changes to the premiums based on the deceased’s driving habits and discounts that he or she may have qualified for.

If you feel that the rates have risen too much, then you may want to shop around for a better rate elsewhere. With only one driver on the vehicle, it may be possible to save on the premiums.

Unfortunately, there were over 33,000 automobile fatalities last year in the U.S., as you can see in the table below.

U.S. Auto Accident Fatality Statistics
Auto Accident StatisticsDetails
2019 Total Fatalities in the U.S.33,963
Car Accident Fatalities Each Day94 (1 every 15 minutes)
Car Accident Fatalities Each Day that Involve Drunk Driving1/3 of total (1 every 45 minutes)
Gender of Fatalities3/4 male
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That’s one fatal car accident every 15 minutes.

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Car Insurance Policies Can Be Invalidated Upon Death

Depending on the language in the policy, the insurance plan may actually become invalid immediately upon the policyholder’s death. The easiest way to find out if the insurance is still in force is to call the company directly and speak with an agent.

This is also an excellent time to speak with the auto insurance company about temporary arrangements so that the car can still be driven for maintenance and estate needs.

If you’re concerned about the rates, then you may be able to speak with the company about changing key aspects of the plan so that you can lower the premiums while still maintaining state minimums.

But is it illegal to drive a deceased person’s car? If the vehicle was registered to only them, you must transfer the title before it can be legally driven.

This video from AFX Videos talks some about how to transfer the car title from a deceased person.

NOLO also describes how to do a special transfer for vehicles.

Make Sure to Protect the Estate of the Deceased

When a person dies, their property is automatically transferred to their estate. If another family member drives the car and is involved in an accident, then there could be a liability issue involving the estate.

The last thing you want is an unexpected lawsuit, so make sure that anyone who gets behind the wheel will be covered.

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Informing the Auto Insurance Company of the Death

The insurance company must be informed of the death so that the insured can be removed from the policy information.

If the policy will remain in effect until the termination date, then you can inform the company of your intention to continue the payments and keep coverage on the car.

It’s also highly recommended that you notify the Department of Motor Vehicles about the death.

You’ll need the decedent’s driver’s license and a copy of the death certificate to update this information with the state and avoid problems later.

Check the Auto Insurance Policy Language in the Event of a Death

Some policies have very specific language that provides coverage for the insured, a surviving spouse, and a legal representative. This means that the executor of an estate could drive the car for a short while in order to handle legal matters, but other family members would not be covered.

Additionally, policies with this type of language also do not have any allowance for the vehicle to be loaned out.

The insurance company will also have the right to look closely at why the car was being driven by a legal representative.

Generally, the vehicle will only be covered if it’s for maintenance or in relation to some other legal responsibility pertaining to the estate.

You can contact your insurance company and request the right type of coverage. Specifically, an “extended non-owned” endorsement will allow the legal representative or another driver to use the car for everyday purposes such as driving to work.

Protection for the Heirs in the Event of Death

The last thing you may want to do is deal with auto insurance, but you don’t want to create a situation where the company may refuse to cover an accident.

When you update the insurance and inform the proper authorities, you can also help shield the estate from lawsuits should the vehicle be involved in an accident.

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Frequently Asked Questions

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a traffic 37,133 fatalities occurred in 2017 from automobile accidents. Hopefully, your family will not experience this, but in case you have more questions, we’ve added more FAQs below.

Does auto insurance have a death benefit?

Some policies, such as added PIP and MedPay may include car insurance death benefits to cover funeral expenses. It’s best to check with your policy.

Can you legally drive a deceased person’s car?

Can you drive a dead person’s car? You should not drive a deceased person’s vehicle until you get the title transferred and auto insurance in your name. Car insurance during probate should follow the same rules, but make sure to call the insurer. If there are any questions about the estate, auto insurance should be treated like you’re not covered.

Is a named driver still insured if the policyholder dies?

Often, after a policyholder dies, the policy is terminated. If you are a named driver on such a policy, you should check with the insurance agent to see if you are still covered.

What happens to a car when someone dies in it?

As far as the car itself, the car will likely be totaled out if somebody died in a crash. If the vehicle was leased and you intend to keep it, it’s important to notify the lender as soon as possible to set up arrangements and inform them.

What happens to homeowners or health insurance after the death of the policyholder?

The policy will be invalidated after death and needs to be rewritten. Homeowner’s policies need to go into only the spouse’s name. If you were already enrolled on a spouse’s health insurance, most places give you a grace period to convert to an individual plan.

To find the best auto insurance in your area and get death benefits in case you get into an accident, enter your ZIP code below.