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What Happens to a Private Number After the Owner Dies

Private number plates aren’t exclusively owned by one person forever. In some cases, the ownership can be relinquished. Either through selling the plate, not renewing your ownership, or if the owner passes away.

In this blog, we will discuss the process of what happens to a private number plate after the owner dies.

Bespoke Plates is a renowned and legally certified registration platemaker and installer, with options of 3D Plates, 4D Plates, Show Plates, and regular / Electric Vehicle Plates and more. We are the one-stop shop for all things registration plates!

Whether it’s a Private Plate, Gel Plate, Standard Registration Plate or plating accessories, we have you covered.

As a certified and experienced team of plate fitters and makers, our plates are installed to the specification of UK law, provided alongside the appropriate paperwork you require. (The only exception to this is show plates.)

How long can someone own a private plate in the UK?

How long can someone own a private plate in the UK?

There’s no strict limit on how long you can own a private number plate in the UK, as long as you maintain its retxention status. However, ownership is tied to a retention certificate, which has a validity period.

Regarding the retention period, the right to use your private number plate lasts for 10 years from the date it’s issued. This is reflected in your V778 retention document. To continue owning the plate beyond 10 years, you need to renew the retention certificate. You can renew it online or by post up to 28 days before the expiry date.

If you miss the renewal deadline and don’t take action, you’ll lose the right to use the plate, and it will become available for anyone to purchase. The DVLA will also not accept late renewal applications.

How does the DVLA calculate the price of a private plate?

The DVLA itself doesn’t actually calculate the cost of a private plate. They don’t set a price and sell them directly. Instead, they facilitate a system where people can compete for the rights to own the plate they want. There are two main ways to acquire a private plate through the DVLA:

  • Auction: The DVLA holds auctions (both online and classic in person events) where people bid against each other for the right to own a specific plate. The final price is determined by the bids placed by interested buyers.
  • Direct purchase: The DVLA also offers some personalized plates for direct purchase online. These plates typically have a set price advertised. However, the availability and price will depend on the specific combination of letters and numbers.

So, the final cost of a private plate from the DVLA depends on these factors:

  • For auctions: The reserve price set by the DVLA (which is often exceeded by bidding) and the competition from other bidders.

What happens to a private number after the owner dies?

What happens to a private number after the owner dies?

When the owner of a private number plate passes away, there are a few options for what can happen to the plate:

  • Keep the plate: If you inherit the plate through a will or are the executor of the estate, you can choose to keep the plate and retain the rights to use it on a vehicle.
  • Transfer the plate: You can transfer the plate to a different vehicle you already own.
  • Transfer ownership: You can transfer ownership of the plate to someone else entirely.
  • Give up the right to use: You can decide to relinquish the right to use the plate and apply for a refund of the original purchase price (though this might not be the full amount).

To handle any of these options, you’ll need to contact the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and provide proof that you have the authority to deal with the deceased’s personal property. This typically involves a death certificate and documentation like a copy of the will or a letter from a solicitor confirming your role as executor or next of kin.

If you are not the next of kin, or have a will or letter confirming the will of the deceased, anything that happens with the number plate is out of your control entirely.

What if there is no next of kin?

If the deceased owner of a private number plate has no next of kin and there’s no will specifying who inherits the plate, the situation becomes a bit more complex.

In this scenario, the plate would likely become unclaimed property by the government. The DVLA would hold the plate for a certain period to see if any claims arise.

Here’s what might happen:

  • Escheat: After the holding period, the plate could potentially escheat to the Crown. This means ownership would formally transfer to the government.
  • Sale: The DVLA might choose to sell the unclaimed plate through a public auction or another means to recoup any associated fees.

Unfortunately, there’s no clear-cut answer on what the DVLA would do in this specific case without any claimants. It’s best to contact the DVLA directly to inquire about their procedure for unclaimed personalized plates in situations with no next of kin.

Their Bereavement Team might be able to provide more specific guidance. You can find their contact details on the DVLA website.

Can private plates be customised?

Can private plates be customised?

Private number plates can be customised as long as certain requirements are met. The most important requirement being that you visit a legal plate manufacturer. They will ensure that all the correct checks are made, so your plate does not end up being invalid.

As long as you have the relevant documentation, you are able to create a custom version of your private plate, which can include 3D/4D characters etc.

Bespoke Plates makes the hassle of getting yourself a brand-new number plate easy and efficient. This is regardless of whether you’re after a standard replacement number plate, or a gel plate. Here is the process.

By following these steps, you will also have the option to see the plate before making a decision.

Visualising how your plate can look in real-time, with the characters from your actual registration plate, saves time and makes it easy for you to know what you want before you get it. Let us walk you through the process of choosing your plate through us.

  1. Head to the Bespoke Plates website
  2. Select the plate style you want under the “Build Your Plate” tab. Alternatively, you can follow this link.
  3. Enter your registration (You can press ‘preview’ to see your registration with all the modification options you have selected.)
  4. When selecting your chosen plate, you can opt for 3D/4D options, a Hex plate, and whether you want a legal plate or a show plate.
  5. Select preferred optional accessories.
  6. Decide if you are collecting with installation, or if you want it to be delivered.

Installing through Bespoke Plates ensures the best service & secure installation for your number plate, along with guidance for any questions you may have.

Buy a private plate today

In this blog, we have highlighted our plate options, and the information you need in order to obtain our stylish customisation options for your vehicle. We aim to have explained what happens to a private number plate after the owner dies.

We hope that we have provided all the right answers and options for all of your plate modification needs.

Bespoke Plates has all the options you can ask for, as an approved registration vendor we can guarantee your modification abides by the DVLA rules whilst offering same-day collections and full fitting service.

To get in touch and discuss the full fitting service we offer with our plates, you can talk to one of the members of our team by:

Email info@bespoke-plates.co.uk

Phone 0333 006 7878

Visit in-store

36A Broughton Street,


M8 8NN

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