The DVS Code: Deciphering joint ownership language for vehicles in Minnesota

by Boyd Johnson on October 14, 2009

When it comes to joint ownership language on vehicle titles, Minnesota’s Driver and Vehicles Services Division operates within its own sphere of logic. The logic of the rules has perplexed more than one probate attorney.

Since this issue arises frequently and the DVS cipher is difficult to find even on its own website, I’m reproducing the secret code for easy future access.

The rules are as follows:

1. If two or more owners are joined on the title with one of the following magic words or phrases, the surviving owner(s) has the right of survivorship (joint tenancy):

  • “or”
  • “and/or”
  • “right of survivorship” (though, I’ve never actually seen this designation)

2. If two or more owners are joined on the title with anything else (e.g. “and” or no conjunction), the surviving owner(s) has no right of survivorship (tenancy in common).

By way of examples, if the title reads:

  • “Mary Roe or John Doe” = joint tenancy
  • “Mary Roe and/or John Doe” = joint tenancy
  • “Mary Roe and John Doe” = tenancy in common
  • “Mary Roe, John Doe” = tenancy in common

Sources: “Just the Facts: Family of Deceased“, MN Dept. of Public Safety, published April 2009; and other sources.

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