Do I legally own the vehicle if my brother paid for a vehicle and it is registered and titled in my name? 7 Answers as of October 24, 2013

My brother bought a vehicle with cash and did/does not have a D.L. so we put the vehicle in my name (title and registration). The insurance is also in my name and he is not listed as a driver. This vehicle is not financed. Huge risk, I know! He got into some legal trouble about a year ago and needed bail money. He asked me to take the vehicle and the title to a title loan company and get a loan to get his bail money with a verbal promise from him to pay the monthly payments of the loan. I did and 10 months later, he is constantly not making payments on time. All of the money went directly to his pocket; I did not keep a penny to myself. Now the title loan manager showed up at my job today and said they need $789 in two days or they were taking legal actions against me. The manager stated I could turn the vehicle in willingly and in turn they would sell the vehicle, pay off the title loan and give me any difference. He said by turning the vehicle in willingly it would prevent anything going against me on public records or on my credit. My brother does not want to turn the vehicle in and thinks that a miracle is going to happen and he will get the money to pay it in two days. Not going to happen, most months my insurance gets cancelled because he cannot pay his half of the insurance bill on time. Can I legally take possession of the vehicle? I do not know where it is or have a key. Would local law enforcement be able to help me recover the vehicle so I can turn it in to the title loan to prevent it going on my credit? Huge mess I have gotten myself in to by trying to help family but a very good lesson has been learned in the process.

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Vasilaros Legal,LLC
Vasilaros Legal,LLC | Steven T. Vasilaros
You own the vehicle, you are responsible for any damages your brother may cause, and you owe the finance company as well.
Answer Applies to: Florida
Replied: 10/24/2013
Paul Whitfield and Associates P.A.
Paul Whitfield and Associates P.A. | Paul L. Whitfield
NC is a title jurisdiction. The name on the title is the owner. Do what you will.
Answer Applies to: North Carolina
Replied: 10/24/2013
Pete Leehey Law Firm, P.C.
Pete Leehey Law Firm, P.C. | Pete Leehey
Since your name is on the title, you are the legal owner of the vehicle. If you can find the vehicle, you are completely within your rights to drive away with it. I doubt that law enforcement would get involved in nests in your behalf.
Answer Applies to: Iowa
Replied: 10/23/2013
Law Offices of Ronald A. Steinberg & Associates | Ronald A. Steinberg, BA, MA, JD
The car is in your name, so it is legally yours.
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 10/23/2013
David F. Stoddard
David F. Stoddard | David F. Stoddard
You are the legal owner. He may have a claim for equitable title, meaning that he is the equitable owner. What this means is he could sue you to get the car back, or to pay damages if you dispose of the title. However, I cannot seeing him being successful under the circumstances. If he did not ask you to take out the loan, he would have a pretty good claim for damages if you took the vehicle he paid for. However, since he asked you to borrow money in your name, the court likely would find that even if he had equitable title, you have an equitable lien for the amount of the loan and the right to repossess the vehicle. He may be entitled to any proceeds left over after the lien is paid. If he tries to get the police involved, saying you stole his car, I do not think they would bring a case since you have legal title and his ownership interest, if any, would have to be determined in civil court. I do not think the police will get involved in assisting you.
Answer Applies to: South Carolina
Replied: 10/23/2013
    Gregory M Janks, PC
    Gregory M Janks, PC | Gregory M Janks
    As far as the Secretary of State is concerned, you own the vehicle if it is titled in your name. How you get possession of it under these circumstances is quite another issue. I'm guessing (I've done no research on this and vehicle ownership/recovery is NOT my area of practice) that you could file a stolen vehicle report with the Police and they may help you recover same (but you still won't have a key) and/or you could sue your brother to quiet title/for turnover of the keys and see if you can get a court order allowing you/the sheriff to recover the vehicle. Maybe you could sign over the title to the title loan company and let them try and repo it? I think you've probably got to get a better answer than mine from someone who knows this area of the law and/or you'll need to pay a lawyer to research this for you, so you know what your options may be.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 10/23/2013
    David P. Slater, esq.
    David P. Slater, esq. | David P. Slater
    Since you own title, you can do what you want with the car. Any $ you get, after your expenses, is his.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 10/23/2013
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