Pre-1996? Review your Stock Certificate.

If you and your spouse took ownership of a cooperative apartment prior to January 1, 1996, you may want to check your stock certificate. If your stock certificate does not state that your shares are held as “joint tenants with rights of survivorship” or as “husband and wife” then it’s possible that your shares (and effectively ownership of the apartment) will be treated as “tenants in common” by the coop’s transfer agent upon a sale of the cooperative apartment.

In such a scenario where one spouse predeceases the other, the deceased spouse’s shares would be deemed property of the deceased’s estate, and the shares would not be automatically inherited by the surviving spouse. In that case, in order to insulate the cooperative apartment corporation from any claim by one claiming an interest in the shares, the transfer agent would likely require letters of administration or letters testamentary from the Surrogate’s Court to dispose of the estate’s cooperative shares, leading to additional costs and delays in consummating the closing.

Therefore, we recommend that if you find yourself in this situation, you should contact your building’s managing agent to update your stock certificate.