What happens to a car insurance policy when someone dies?

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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.

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.

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Surviving Spouse

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.

Invalid Upon Death

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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 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.

Protecting the Estate

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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Inform the Company of the Change

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 Policy Language

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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

The last thing you may want to do is deal with the 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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