Q&A: Asset Transfer on Death

Q For estate planning purposes, my wife is the sole owner of our co-op. A recent change to the New York State law permits assets to be transferred on death by use of a “Transfer on Death” designation. Like a trust, this avoids probate, but incurs little or no cost to prepare. Can I use such a method to transfer co-op ownership?

—Husband shareholder

A “You raise a timely question about the new “Transfer on Death” or “TOD” designation now permitted for securities in New York State,” says Michael T. Manzi, Esq. of Balber Pickard Battistoni Maldonado & Van Der Tuin. “Neither the new statute nor its legislative history indicates whether it applies to co-op shares. Moreover, the statute specifically provides that the registering entity (in your instance, the cooperative corporation) is not required to offer or accept a request for the TOD designation. Therefore, even if the statute were applicable to cooperative stock, a co-op would not be required to accept, and most likely would not accept, the designation. Most co-ops wish to maintain control over transfers on death, controls that are usually set forth in the co-op’s proprietary lease.”

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