Monday, November 22, 2010
Help Me Howard: Dead Husband's Car
Are you married? Is your car in your name? So what would happen if one of you died and the car was not in the surviving person's name? Could the finance company come and take it away from them? That's the reason one widow called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Four years ago, Marlon and Nyoka had a child. Three years ago, they were married. Two years ago, they bought a car.
Nyoka Nicholas: "Basically, it was my car, 'cause he did it for me."
Since Nyoka's credit wasn't great, Marlon financed the car in his name, and Nyoka made the payments. Everything was great till this year.
Nyoka Nicholas: "He was breathing, but real hard. He wasn't talking at all. Not replying."
Marlon was apparently having a heart attack. Nyoka dialed 911, but on that day in July, Marlon died.
Nyoka Nicholas: "I mean, I can't really explain it, because, I mean, I never grew up with a dad."
Now, their son will grow up without a dad. Nyoka was devastated, and when their car payment came due, she forgot it till the finance company called her.
Nyoka Nicholas: "My husband just passed away, but I cannot make the payment right now. I am not in the mood for nothing right now."
By the time Nyoka got their finances in order, she was two months behind. So she called the finance company to make the payments.
Nyoka Nicholas: "They told me to go ahead and make the payments, and they will send me a paper so I can put my name on it. I make the payment, but I did not receive a paper so I can go ahead and put my name on it."
Then in September, she says she tried to make another car payment and was told she had to pay what her husband owed on the car.
Nyoka Nicholas: "They want $10,000 something payoff."
Nyoka says she told them she didn't have $10,000, but she could keep making the payments.
Nyoka Nicholas: "They said no. They are not taking no more payments. They need the car back."
On the dash of the car, Nyoka has a family picture, and she says this is not just a car to her and her son.
Nyoka Nicholas: "Because my son, when every time my son see the car, he says, 'That's my daddy's car.' That's the only thing. That's the only thing I can say, 'That's my husband.'"
She can't pay $10,000 to keep the car but can't bear the thought of turning in the car.
Patrick Fraser: "That car is important to you?"
Nyoka Nicholas: "Yeah, 'cause it's, like, the first thing we ever bought together."
Well Howard, if you are married, one of your vehicles is in your spouse's name, they die, do you have to pay off what is owed or lose it?
Howard Finkelstein: "To be blunt, the lenders don't want the cars back, and as long as you keep making payments, even if your name is not on the loan, they will not repossess it. However, if you are late with the payments, they can demand you either pay the entire loan off or they can take the car back."
When we called the people who financed the car, they told me they tried to work with Nyoka, even after she was late with the payments, that they offered to refinance the car in her name, but that she did not want to do that and have to make a new down payment. When I asked if it was too late to work something out, they told me yes.
Howard says this can be avoided.
Howard Finkelstein: "You can refinance or you can buy life insurance to pay off a vehicle owned by a member of your family. Another solution: have the vehicle in both of your names. That's the best way to go."
Nyoka now has to turn the car in. The car her late husband bought for her.
Nyoka Nicholas: "It's not just a car. It's more than a car. It's more than a car."
Patrick Fraser: "Now if your spouse dies and has a car financed in their name, you are not legally required to make the payments. But if they have any money or assets, the finance company can try to go to court to make the estate pay what's owed on the car. Best idea: stay healthy and live a long time."
Bought a problem that's not going to pay off? Ready to drive home a point? Contact us. We aren't finance whizzes, but our legal work can add up to a solution.