Q: My dad passed away and we don't know what to do with the car. Can we sell it on our own or do we need to open an estate?
A: It will depend on whether you can proceed under an informal probate. If your dad's probate assets have a value of $50,000 or less, you can likely transfer the title to the car using an affidavit.
If your dad's probate assets fall within the $50,000 limit, you can go to the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles website and download Affidavit for Transfer of Certificate of Title for a Vehicle/Watercraft Without Administration (State Form 18733). Complete the form and fill in the transfer information on the back of the Certificate of Title and you should be good to go.
You should call the BMV before signing the title to determine exactly how they would like it signed. I believe they ask you to sign the decedent's name with deceased written next to it but I would verify before actually signing it.
The informal process can be used to transfer title to an heir or to a third-party buyer.
If your dad's probate assets exceed $50,000, you will likely need to open an estate and the personal representative will transfer title using his or her authority.
Q: How do I change the beneficiary designation on my life insurance? Do I need to work with the attorney on the changes?
A: Generally speaking, changing the beneficiary designation on a life insurance policy is a pretty easy. You'll just need to obtain the proper beneficiary form and fill out the new designation.
You should be able to obtain the form from the insurance company's website or from a customer service representative. You could also contact the agent to see if he or she can help.
Once you have completed the form, send it to the address indicated. Remember most beneficiary designations are not effective until accepted by the life insurance company. In other words, make sure you actually mail the form rather than just sticking it in your file. If the company doesn't have your request, it is unlikely to honor it after your death.
You don't necessarily need to involve your attorney unless you need assistance with the form. However, I think it might be a good idea to send the attorney a copy of the form so that it can be placed in your file. Especially if you completed an asset disclosure form when your set up your estate plan. Might as well keep everything current.