Wednesday, March 17, 2021
In re Estate of Theodore George the Vermont Supreme Court had the job of determining the rightful owner of a 1979 Cadillac Eldorado. Although these types of cases are common, it is rare for them to make it all the way up to the Vermont Supreme Court.
Theodore purchased the Cadillac in 1992 and he received the certificate of title in 1994. Theodore was the sole owner of the Cadillac. In 2006, Theodore submitted a Vermont Registration, Tax and Title application with the DMV. Theodore was listed as the owner and his daughter was listed as co-owner The form directs applicants to select rights of survivorship if there is more than one owner listed on the certificate. The form provides, "if no box is checked joint tenants will be selected. Theodore did not check the box and he was the only person that signed the certificate.
In 2016, Theodore left the car to one of his other daughters, Christine, through both a will and a codicil. Theodore died in 2017 and both the will and the codicil were admitted to probate. The executor of the estate listed the Cadillac as an asset of the estate and Deborah contested.
The Probate Court did not find clear evidence of ownership and that the Cadillac was properly listed as part of the estate.
In order to transfer title in Vermont, the testator must, at time of the delivery, "execute an assignment and warranty of title to the transferee in the space provided in the certificate."
The Vermont Supreme Court held that Theodore did not transfer the Cadillac because delivery requires "complete possession and control" to complete an inter vivid gift.
See Vermont Supreme Court Determines Ownership Of 1979 Cadillac Eldorado In Probate Dispute, Probate Stars, March 10, 2021.