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How can someone sell a car in California without being present to sign the required documents (title etc)?

Selling a car in California requires the seller to sign documents such as the title, when selling the car. If the seller is not present, but has someone available locally who is looking after the vehicle, how can they deal with the legal requirement to be present, if they are not able to physically be there (e.g., COVID-related travel restrictions)? For the purposes of this question, the current owner owns the vehicle outright, with no liens etc, and the seller's local contact is able to print out required documents etc.

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  • Hi RodeoClown, I am voting to close because this question is requesting legal advice. Please generalize the question and I will retract.
    – Andrew
    Jun 3 '20 at 17:36
  • I'm not asking for legal advice, I'm asking how to do a legal thing while not present in the specific jurisdiction right now.
    – RodeoClown
    Jun 3 '20 at 18:45
  • You are asking for legal advice. "How can I...", "I work in...", "I'm looking to sell..." This can be changed to, for example, "How can a person sell their car without being present to sign the required documents (title, etc.)?"
    – Andrew
    Jun 3 '20 at 18:52
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    Fair enough - will edit
    – RodeoClown
    Jun 3 '20 at 18:57
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You can give your friend limited power of attorney in respect to selling your car, if you trust your friend enough with managing this transaction.

Basically this is just a legal form you sign telling anybody who questions that you give your friend the legal right to stand in your place (in legal matters) and act as if they were you. The limited part is important as you don't want to give unlimited power of attorney (not sure you even can without more involved work), but you need to spell out exactly what your friend can do, like sign your title, sign and deliver a bill of sale, and complete a transaction in your name.

Your friend would be signing their name to the title and submitting it with the power of attorney paperwork. In California, the DMV has a specific form for exactly this. You should print out, sign, and mail that form to your friend.

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  • Thanks! The form says the signature needs to be in ink. Are you able to say whether I'm able to digitally sign, and then have it printed out by my friend, or does it need to be signed post-printing?
    – RodeoClown
    Jun 3 '20 at 18:48
  • I'm fairly certain you'll have to mail this in (as in old-fashioned mail with stamps), and should be signed after printing in ink as it says on the instructions, but you could always try calling the CA DMV to get a clarification.
    – Ron Beyer
    Jun 3 '20 at 19:17
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A great many scams use the pretext of an owner overseas to cover for the lack of proper paperwork; be aware that prospective buyers may be skeptical even if what you are doing is 100% legal.

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