It is not uncommon for a precious commodity such as season tickets to the Yankees, Giants or Knicks to be handed down from father to son or from grandfather to grandson. So, in today's marketplace, it's easy to see why an apartment owner would want their exclusive Manhattan real estate to be passed down from generation to generation.
That is where inheritance rights or the rights of succession come into play. And what rules the roost, so to speak, in that area, are the proprietary lease, bylaws, and the governing documents of the building, according to attorney Adam Finkelstein of the Manhattan-based law firm of Wagner, Davis and Gold, P.C.
There are distinct differences in how succession works in co-op apartments compared to a condo, Finkelstein explains.
"In a condo, for the most part, a unit owner via their will or intestacy can pass down an apartment with very little restrictions - if any - by the board or managers," says Finkelstein. "In a co-op, you're in a whole different world. In a co-op, obviously, a person living in an apartment is just a tenant of the building and they happen to be a shareholder of the corporation that owns the building, so you have to look to the proprietary lease and bylaws - the governing documents of the corporation - to determine who can take over an apartment."
In most cases, Finkelstein says, the proprietary lease will allow a spouse - husband or wife - to take over the apartment of a deceased spouse, even when that person is not named on the stock certificates. Generally, he says, a wife can take over a deceased husband's apartment because the standard proprietary lease usually contains a provision that "no consent" is needed on behalf of a spouse or their children.