There are many different types of ownership interests that a decedent may have. Prior to death, a person may have acquired real estate in the form of a single family home. Similarly an individual may have been the owner of a cooperative apartment or a condominium unit. Each of these property types are assets that a decedent’s estate may need to administer as part of estate settlement.
It is very common though, especially with New York City Estates, that a decedent was a tenant pursuant to a lease in a residential apartment at the time of death. In these situations, the decedent’s family, or executor or administrator must understand various rules that effect the estate’s interest in the rental apartment.
A recent case decided on November 4, 2016 by NYC Housing Court Judge Sabrina Kraus, entitled Westbeth Corp. HDFC Inc. v. Gross, provides a good explanation of the various issues involved in these matters. In Westbeth, the tenant of the apartment died and the landlord of the building commenced an eviction proceeding claiming that estate Administrator was improperly subletting the apartment to herself as an individual. The tenant-respondent’s request to the Court to stop discovery and to dismiss the eviction case was denied. The Court explained that the respondent, who was the estate administrator, had a right to possession of the apartment as the estate fiduciary until the current lease expired. However, the Court recognized that the estate administrator did not have the right to occupy the apartment individually. If the administrator attempted to individually live in the apartment she would be violating the lease and be subject to eviction.
However, in Westbeth, the administrator also claimed that she had succession rights that allowed her to occupy the apartment. Briefly stated, under New York City Rent Stabilization and Rent Control Laws, immediate members of a decedent’s family who have lived with a decedent pursuant to various time requirements, may be able to succeed to or take over the apartment as the tenant. Since the Court found in Westbeth that the administrator of the estate was living in the apartment and claiming individual succession rights, the Court ordered that the parties engage in further proceedings to determine the validity of the succession claim.
It can be very difficult to determine the various rights of a decedent and his family to various property interests after death. In particular, various rights of an estate administrator and individual family members may need to be sorted out. I have represented many individuals in estate litigation regarding rights to estate property. I have also assisted many family members regarding succession claims to apartments. If you have any questions regarding estate or individual rights to a decedent’s property call me now for a free review.
New York Trusts and Estates Attorney Jules Martin Haas has helped many clients over the past 30 years resolve issues relating to probate and estate settlement throughout New York City including Manhattan and Brooklyn. If you or someone you know has any questions regarding these matters, please contact me at (212) 355-2575 for an initial consultation.