Future World Estate Planning in Co-ops and Condos

Most of us don’t like to spend a lot of time contemplating our so-called “final wishes”—we’d much rather leave planning our wills and executing our estates for another day. Uncomfortable as the subject is for many people however, it’s vitally important to make those decisions now, rather than waiting until it may be too late. The issue of estate planning is especially important when it comes to the right of transferring co-op shares or leaving a beneficiary your condo apartment.

Getting Past the Jargon

If you’re like many people, perhaps you haven’t given much thought to this question. After all, nobody really wants to think about his or her death—it’s something we have to do, but not really something we want to do.

However, without understanding the potential challenges associated with willing co-op shares to your heirs or another designee, you can be setting your friends or loved ones up for potential complications that they will have to sort through after you’re long gone. These complications may also lead to heartbreak when they realize that getting into your co-op is not as easy as simply getting the key to the front door.

The topic of transferring co-op shares is jam-packed with legalese that would make any homeowner wish that they had earned their law degree—but let’s first start with a crash course in ‘share-ing.’ It’s not as simple as just handing over your keys to your friend or neighbor and the deal is done. Steven R. Wagner, a founding partner at Wagner Davis P.C., in Manhattan, explains that the bottom line is that “the co-op corporations decide who will walk the halls and ride the elevators when it comes to deciding on who owns the co-op next.”

“With a condo, you own real estate and you get a deed,” Wagner continues. “With a co-op, you own a lease—you’re the tenant, and you own shares of stock in a corporation that is the landlord. The condo board doesn’t own anything; it’s a governing body to control those items which are stated in the declaration.”


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  • my son-in-law inherited his father's co-op in Manhattan. For two years he's been paying the up-keep charges without being able to live there, yet has been refused "ownership: by the co op board. He has a considerable amount of cash available, own a a co-op in NJ and a house in Greenport, NY (without a mortgage). but his income, combined with his wife (She is a social worker, he a luggage designer) is under 100,000 a year. What are their options?
  • I'm in the exact scenario as Ruth. I inherited my mother's co-op in MN and have been paying the $800+ carrying charges for 1 year. I have tried literally everything to sell this. What are MY options????? I have my own home and have no intention on moving there.