When co-op and condo owners plan their will, or a prenuptial agreement, their condo or co-op unit naturally comes into play as an important asset. Often, it’s no problem—the owner leaves the apartment to his or her spouse. It’s especially simple when both names are on the will.
But this is life, and all sorts of things can happen. What happens if an owner's wife dies, he forgets to make out a new will, and there are three children? Or what happens when there’s a sudden divorce with no prenuptial agreement, and both parties want the co-op?
Or what happens when, as in the case of a friend of this reporter, a man lives with a woman for years, but the couple never married, and the man never got around to putting his partner's name on the lease, although he always meant to? The man dies suddenly—does the girlfriend have any legal standing to remain in the apartment?
This complicated field is known as trusts and estates, and trust us, it’s complicated—that’s why there are attorneys who specialize in nothing else. For this article, we have enlisted the aid of several attorneys to answer some common questions that co-op and condo residents, board members, and managers might have when the unexpected suddenly hits.
Condos vs. Co-ops
In the event of an an owner's death, how is dealing with a co-op apartment different than dealing with a condo—providing that the bereaved doesn’t also have his or her name on the lease or the stock certificate? The answer lies in the basic difference between the two types of units—in the first, you’re a shareholder in the co-op corporation, and in the second, you basically own the unit outright.