New York State, Estates, and automobiles

My wife was recently told by someone that, in New York State (where we live), a surviving spouse is only allowed to keep one car after the other spouse dies (or possibly keep one car w/o paying estate taxes on it). Now, this sounds like total BS to me (esp. since, in my neck of the woods, everyone seems to have three or four cars/trucks). Why would automobiles be treated differently from other personal property?

In fact, a search just revealed that NY recently killed its estate tax. So is there any truth to this whatsoever?

I can’t possibly see that they would be able to tell a widow/widower how many cars they can own. They don’t tell single/divorced people how many cars they can own, do they? I don’t know about the estate tax question, but that would apply to the entire estate, not just cars owned (if there is an estate tax).

Go to the NYS DMV website. It is impressively comprehensive and informative, though it sometimes requires a little extra focus on your part to follow all the details they provide.

I had a somewhat similar situation when my dad died without a will. He had just one car, mind you. But the website told me where exactly the car’s ownership stood as a result of his death (it shifted to my mother upon his death) and exactly how to then transfer it to me (as a gift). I’m sure if there are rules and limitations regarding multiple cars it will be mentioned in the site.

Good luck.

Hmm. Thanks, Stuyguy. There is this:

Which states that one vehicle owned by the deceased and worth less than $15K is automatically transfered to the surviving spouse, but that any additional vehicles (or any vehicle worth +$15K) is part of the estate and must be handled as such.

But … they make no mention of what happens to jointly owned vehicles, which are also allowed in NYS:

Guess I’ll have to make a call.

IANAL, but if they are jointly owned, why would they not all go to the surviving spouse? That is how jointly owned anything works, AFAIK. Maybe the person who (mis?)informed your wife was not aware of the joint-ownership situation.