A New York estate usually contains many different types of assets. These assets can include bank accounts, stocks and bonds, retirement accounts and real estate. A beneficiary's interest in these assets is determined by the nature or manner in which these assets are owned or titled. For example, a bank account in the sole name of a decedent will be distributed according to the decedent's Last Will or, if none, the laws of intestacy. However, a bank account held in the name of the decedent "in trust for" a named beneficiary will be distributed directly to the designee upon the decedent's death regardless of the Last Will or intestacy laws.
Among all of these asset transfer variations, the disposition of real property often presents the most complexity. This is due to the many complex rules regarding the ownership and transfer of real estate.
The New York Probate Lawyer Blog provides a reference to New York issues and problems presented in decedent's estates and estate settlement. A recent case that dealt with the disposition of a decedent's real estate was Holder v. Smartt, Index No. 3384/08, Supreme Court Kings County, decided November 11, 2010 and reported in the New York Law Journal on November 29, 2010. In Holder, real property had been tranfered by the executor of an estate by an executor's deed to "Arthur Holder and Shirley Holder a/k/a Shirley Stewart, his wife, .... and Lydia Smartt ...."
After Arthur Holder died, his surviving spouse Shirley, commenced a partition action against Lydia Smartt to have the real property sold and the proceeds of sale distributed between them. A partition action is a court proceeding whereby a co-owner of real property can have a Court direct the sale of the property and the distribution of the sales proceeds.
In enforcing its determination as to partition, the Honorable David I. Schmidt was asked to rule on the interest of an alleged son of Arthur Holder who claimed that as a distributee of Arthur's estate, he had an interest in the real property. The Court found that under New York law, "when real property is conveyed to a husband and wife and a third party, the husband and wife have one moiety as tenants by the entirety, and the third person is a tenant in common with them of the other ...." Thus, since Arthur was married to Shirley when he died, his entire interest in the property passed to Shirley upon his death who then owned the property with Lydia Smartt. Since the son had no interest in the property, the Court directed that the sale of the property continue and the sales proceeds be distributed between Shirley and Lydia.