What Happens to Car Insurance When the Policyholder Dies?
Handling car insurance after the death of the policy owner can be tricky — let's review some basics.
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Car insurance after death: what happens to the policy?
After grieving the loss of a loved one, dealing with the logistics can be stressful — especially when auto insurance is involved. The steps you should take after a car insurance policyholder dies may vary, depending on the car insurance company and policy details. We've broken down recommended courses of action in specific situations.
- Notify the insurer of the policyholder's death as soon as possible
- If you aren't listed on the policy, you will likely have to provide proof of being the executor to terminate the policy
- In most cases, the policy will remain in force while the vehicle is being used by the estate's executor for estate-related affairs
- Keep track of all communications between the estate, the insurer, and the state of residence
Death of a relative on a separate policy
If a relative dies and you’re not listed as a member on their car insurance policy, resolving the situation can be tricky. The insurance company — responsible for the security of the policy — will protect its client's assets by making it difficult to terminate the policy. You most likely won't be able to close the car insurance policy of a deceased family member via a quick phone call. The insurance company will likely require documentation proving your status as the executor of the estate.
The insurance company doesn't intentionally want to be difficult during an already testing time. The company merely wants to uphold its responsibility to its clients by protecting against fraud. The best way to iron out the situation is to contact the insurance company’s customer service department with your documentation at the ready.
In most cases, the policy will remain in force while the status of the deceased's vehicle is being decided. Of course, make sure to verify this with the insurance company (in writing is recommended). After the matters of the estate have been settled, your insurance company will likely allow you to terminate the policy.
You most likely won't be able to close the car insurance policy of a deceased family member via a quick phone call.
Death of a spouse who is the policyholder
Every car insurance policy has a "policyholder" — the driver who purchased and is covered by the insurance. Policy changes, including the addition or removal of a vehicle or driver and cancellation of coverage, must be authorized by the policyholder. If the owner of the car insurance policy dies, what happens to the policy?
A surviving spouse or executor of the deceased driver's estate will inherit the policy. This step will require documentation in the form of a death certificate and/or probate form/executor of estate documents. This process may be company-specific: your first step should be to contact your insurance company’s customer service department.
Upon notice of death — and in most states — insurers will effectively remove the late spouse one day after the reported date of passing. If some time has passed since the policyholder's death and their name has remained on the policy for months or even years, reimbursement could be possible — most insurance companies will process this as far back as its systems will allow, which is usually one to two policy terms back
There are many things to consider after a loved one has passed away, and car insurance is one that may have you wondering what to do next. Here are some commonly asked questions when it comes to the death of a policyholder.
What do I need to provide to the insurance company?
When you contact the insurance company to notify them of the policyholder's death, you'll want to have documentation such as a death certificate and proof of executorship. If you have access to a recent statement or a copy of the policy, this may be helpful to the insurance representative, as well.
What happens to an open claim when the policyholder dies?
You'll still want to notify the insurance company of the policyholder's death and continue with the policy cancelation. The claim can still be processed through a settlement even though the policy will be canceled. This means that the deductible will be taken from the claim payout, or if there is an amount owed this will be paid through the deceased's estate.
Will I have to get a whole new policy if my spouse dies?
You'll want to check with your insurance company, but if both of you were on the policy then the name of the deceased spouse can most likely be removed. You will then be listed as the primary policyholder without having to start from scratch with a brand new policy.
Can I still drive my spouse's (or relative's) car after they've passed away?
In most cases, the policy will remain in force while matters of the estate are being handled (verify this with your insurer). However, if you plan on keeping and driving the car, but it was registered and insured under their name only, then you'll need to register and insure the vehicle in your name. Contact your insurance company and the local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for specific questions about your situation.
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About The Zebra
The Zebra is not an insurance company. We publish data-backed, expert-reviewed resources to help consumers make more informed insurance decisions.
- The Zebra’s insurance content is written and reviewed for accuracy by licensed insurance agents.
- The Zebra’s insurance content is not subject to review or alteration by insurance companies or partners.
- The Zebra’s editorial team operates independently of the company’s partnerships and commercialization interests, publishing unbiased information for consumer benefit.
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