Different forms of ownership frequently result in assets being passed by operation of law, and not according to the wishes stated in the Last Will and Testament. It is crucially important to discuss with your attorney your specific wishes and the current forms of ownership of your assets.


Property: Joint ownership of both real and personal property has been recognized for centuries. Three forms of joint ownership are recognized in New York:


1. Tenancy in Common. Each owner has a divisible fractional share. The shares do not have to be equal. There is no right of survivorship in the other tenant’s interest. Each owner has a right to transfer or sell their  share of the property to any other party.


2. Tenancy by the Entirety. This form is applicable only to spouses and only to ownership of real property and cooperative apartments. Each spouse owns an undivided interest with a right of survivorship. There is no right to unilaterally sever or partition the interests.


3. Joint Tenancy. Each joint tenant has an undivided interest in the property. The tenants have a right of survivorship. Each tenant has a right to unilaterally sever or destroy the joint tenancy by transferring his or her interest to any other party, at which point the form of joint ownership is changed to Tenancy in Common.


Financial Accounts: Financial accounts (bank, brokerage, life insurance policies) also may have different forms of ownership. These forms include accounts being held individually, jointly with rights of survivorship, subject to a Power of Attorney which expires upon death, held ‘in trust for’ a named beneficiary, or Payable on Death to a named beneficiary.


Please contact Sverdlov Law PLLC at 212-709-8112 or ksverdlov@sverdlovlaw.com if you need help with determining the most efficient method of passing your assets and setting up your accounts properly.