Personal Representatives and Obligations Concerning Auto Insurance During Probate

Many of my clients are individuals who have recently learned that they were named as the executor (or, as we say in Maryland, Personal Representative) of a family member’s estate. It is a role that carries many responsibilities, but those responsibilities can be greatly lessened 1) with a good attorney to guide you through the process and 2) by being methodical and organized. (And keep in mind that, in MOST circumstances, fees paid to an attorney for services in connection with the administration of an estate are payable by the estate.)

The Personal Representative’s biggest responsibility is that he or she is legally responsible for protecting the home, savings and other assets of the deceased person until the probate process is complete and the assets are disbursed.

One asset common to many estates is an automobile and it is important for the Personal Representative to ensure that automobiles always have insurance coverage while probate is ongoing. In many cases, the insurance policy issued to the deceased titleholder may extend past the date of death, but steps need to be taken to make sure the insurance company will continue coverage. The Personal Representative must protect the vehicle as soon as possible by notifying the insurance carrier that the owner of the car has died and that a PR has been appointed for his or her estate. The insurance company may then issue an endorsement to the insurance policy naming the PR as the insured party.

It’s also part of the Personal Representative’s job to make sure that the insurance policy is sufficient to cover the vehicle in case of a loss. In some cases, I have discovered that the decedent did not have the correct coverage for a vintage or rare car. In those instances, I have recommended to my clients that the estate should pay for additional coverage.

Kate McDonough, Esquire