Inheriting a Co-op or Condo: What’s Involved? There Are Issues When It Comes to Transferring Property

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Picture this: at some point, your parents would like to move out of their multifamily apartment in the city that they’ve owned for decades and now want to live out their remaining years at their Columbia County single-family home in upstate New York. They want to give the apartment to you as their heir. The question is can you inherit that unit from your folks in the same way you could for the upstate home?  The answer is yes, but it’s complicated. Then again, anything involving real estate in New York City usually is.

Is It Real Estate?

Like all privately-owned, fee-simple real estate, the house in Columbia County is in fact real estate.  It can be easily passed from parent to child, or to anyone else for that matter. What’s required is a will that clearly states who inherits the ownership of the property.  A condominium unit is not far from that, since they are real estate, too.  

If owned jointly with a spouse, real estate can pass directly upon the death of one joint owner to another.  In the case of a condominium passing from parent(s) to a child(ren), the transfer of ownership, particularly in the case where there is a will, is also a relatively easy and painless process.

The one unique question in a condominium is whether the condominium association’s usual “right of first refusal” is enforceable in cases of inheritance rights.  The “right of first refusal” is the condominium association’s legal recourse in cases where the board--as the elected representative of the association membership--is unhappy about a potential unit sale.  In the event a board exercises its “right of first refusal,” they can offer to purchase the unit at a comparable price, rather than accept the unit owner’s purchaser.

“Inheritance of a condominium unit is like a private home, and not subject to the right of first refusal,” says Phyllis Weisberg, a co-op and condo attorney with Montgomery McCracken Walker Rhoads, which has offices in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.

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