Legal Line Question of the Week: Tenancy by the Entirety, Co-op Stock Certificates and January 1, 1996

Legal Line Question of 
the Week: Tenancy by 
the Entirety, Co-op 
Stock Certificates 
and January 1, 1996

Q: What is a Tenancy by the Entirety and what is the relevance of
January 1, 1996 as it relates to co-op stock certificates?

A: A Tenancy by the Entirety ("TBTE") is a form of 
ownership of real property that is only available for 
married spouses. In a TBTE, married couples are 
viewed as a single person to whom title to real 
property is vested, and each spouse owns an 
undivided 100% interest in the property. Each spouse 
in a TBTE has a right of survivorship, which means 
that upon the death of one spouse, the surviving 
spouse becomes the sole owner of the property 
by operation of law.
Technically speaking, a co-op purchase is a securities transaction 
rather than a real estate purchase, and therefore, a TBTE was not 
always available to married couples purchasing co-ops. However, 
on January 1, 1996 (the "Effective Date"), the New York Estate 
Power and Trust Law (the "Law") was amended to permit married 
couples to hold title to co-op apartments as a TBTE. Under the Law, 
married couples who purchase co-ops after the Effective Date, and 
do not specify the form of ownership on the stock certificate, are 
presumed to own the co-op as a TBTE.

Important Tip: If a married couple owns a co-op that they purchased 
prior to January 1, 1996, the stock certificate should be examined to 
determine how the couple holds title to the shares. If the stock 
certificate does not indicate a TBTE and one spouse dies, the property 
will not pass to the surviving spouse by operation of law. Accordingly, 
the couple should speak to their legal counsel and evaluate the various 
forms of ownership, from an estate planning perspective, to determine 
whether they should amend the stock certificate to create a TBTE.

Neil B. Garfinkel,
REBNY Broker Counsel
Partner-in-charge of real estate and banking practices
at Abrams Garfinkel Margolis Bergson, LLP

Fernando Branco, GRI, ABR, CNE
Lic. Assoc. Real Estate Broker
Residential Real Estate
Commercial Sales & Leasing 
Graduate Realtor Institute (GRI) 
Accredited Buyer Representative (ABR) 
Certified Negotiator Expert (CNE)
R New York
641 Lexington Ave, NY NY  10022
c: (212) 321-0115
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