Joint Ownership of Real Property- Different Ways Real Property can be Titled

Title to real property can be held in three different ways; tenants by the entirety, tenants in common, and joint tenants with rights of survivorship.

Tenants by the entirety- the property is owned by a married couple.  The deed will usually state the parties as husband wife. For example the deed would say “John Doe and Jane Doe, husband and wife” or “John Doe and Jane Doe, his wife.” When one spouse passes away the property will pass automatically to the surviving spouse.

Daredevil Dan Example:

Daredevil Dan and his wife Brittany own property as tenants by the entirety in Park Slope, Brooklyn.  Daredevil Dan tried swimming from the Brooklyn Bridge to Governor’s Island.  He made it to Governor’s Island successfully but caught something swimming in the East River, and that was the end of Daredevil Dan.   The Park Slope property would pass automatically to Brittany.


Tenants in Common– the property is owned by more than one person in what could be various percentages. A person with a tenants in common interest can sell or transfer their interest without notifying the other owners. They can leave their interest to a person in their will or if they do not leave a will their interest would pass to their heirs at law.  A person with a tenants in common interest has the right to live in the property without paying rent.

Daredevil Dan Example:

Daredevil Dan, his brother Kenneth, and his friend Adam purchase a property in Bushwick, Brooklyn.  They each own one-third (1/3) of the property as tenants in common.  Daredevil Dan tried a stunt which involved jumping a shark, he failed, and that was the end of Daredevil Dan.  Daredevil Dan in his will left the Bushwick property to his friend, Christopher. Christopher would now be a one-third (1/3) owner of the property and would have the right to live in the property without paying rent.


Joint Tenants with Rights of Survivorship–  the property will pass automatically to the co-owner upon the first person to pass away. The deed must state joint tenants with rights of survivorship.  For example, the deed would say “John Doe and Mary Smith as joint tenants with rights of survivorship.”  A joint tenancy with rights of survivorship can be unilaterally severed to a tenants in common titling. The joint tenant would deed themselves their interest in the property from joint tenants with rights of survivorship to a tenants in common interest. For example the deed’s language would be “John Doe with a joint tenants with rights of survivorship interest as party in the first part to John Doe as tenant in common as party in the second part.”

Daredevil Dan Example:

Daredevil Dan and his friend Sophie own a property on the Upper East Side of Manhattan as joint tenants with rights of survivorship. Daredevil Dan was walking down the street when a piano fell on his head, and that was the end of Daredevil Dan.   Sophie would now own the property on the Upper East Side.

Do not transfer or re-title property without consulting an attorney.  For more information regarding the titling of real property, contact Miller & Miller Law Group PLLC.


Who may commence a Guardianship Proceeding?  

If you are concerned that a loved one or family member can no longer take care of their finances or are unable to make safe medical decisions for themselves, a guardianship proceeding may need to be commenced.   Who has the authority to commence a Guardianship proceeding? M.H.L. §81.06 lists specifically who may commence a guardianship proceeding.   §81.06 sets out some specific people who have authority to start a guardianship proceeding such as any distributee (meaning any person who would be entitled to the AIP’s estate according the NY laws of intestacy EPTL §4-1.1), an executor of an estate where the alleged incapacitated person is or may be the beneficiary of the estate, the trustee of a trust when the alleged incapacitated person is or may be the grantor or a beneficiary of that trust, or a person whom the person alleged to be incapacitated resides.

There is a catch all provision to §81.06. Under 81.06(a)(6) “ a person otherwise concerned with the welfare of the person alleged to be incapacitated,” can commence a guardianship by filing a petition.

In other words, anyone concerned for an alleged incapacitated person (AIP) can commence a guardianship proceeding.  This includes friends, significant others, neighbors, even the mailman.


Daredevil Dan Example:

Daredevil Dan has been living in an apartment in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.  His mind has been beginning to fail him and he has been wandering around his apartment complex unable to find his apartment. Daredevil Dan’s friend, Jeremy, sees Daredevil Dan struggling and decides to commence a Guardianship proceeding.

What does the New York Jets all time sack leader have to do with Elder Law?

Recently Mark Gastineau, the New York Jets all time sack leader, told the public that he was diagnosed with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is an awful disease that affects the brain and destroys memories and other important mental functions.  He may not be able to recall family members or how to get dressed. It is an absolutely awful and debilitating disease.  Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease and will eventually render Mark Gastineau incapacitated. There are two ways of dealing with incapacity. First planning in advance through advanced directives and second through a guardianship.

Due to this incapacity, Mark will have trouble taking care of his financial affairs and issues giving the doctor direction as to his treatment.  With some basic estate planning, Mark could plan for this eventual incapacity.  By executing a power of attorney and health care proxy a full guardianship can be avoided. These documents are called advanced directives.  A power of attorney will allow an agent of your choice to take care of your financial matters.  A health care proxy allows an agent to make medical decisions for a person if they are unable to give a doctor direction.

If there are no advanced directives in place, a court hearing called a guardianship may need to be commenced to help Mark with his financial affairs and medical decisions.   A guardianship may be commenced by a loved one or a friend.  The person commencing the hearing is called the petitioner. The petitioner must prove by clear and convincing evidence that a person alleged to be incapacitated (AIP) has functional limitations and is in fact incapacitated and in need of a guardian.   To learn more about guardianships or have any questions, contact Miller & Miller Law Group PLLC.

Seven Benefits of a Revocable Living Trust



Many Americans simply leave a will to distribute their assets upon their passing.  However, the creation of a Revocable Living Trust creates several benefits unavailable to those simply leaving a will. Here are seven benefits to creating a Revocable Living Trust

1) Avoiding Probate- A great benefit of a living trust is that it avoids probate. Probate means the official proving of a will.  This official proving is done at the Surrogates Court in the county where the person was domiciled before their passing.  In order to probate a will, a copy of the will must be distributed to everyone who would inherit from the person’s estate if there were no will.  In some cases, locating these people who would inherit can be very difficult, costly, and time consuming.  By creating a trust, this issue can be avoided.

2) Privacy- Another key distinction between leaving a will and creating a living trust is the level of privacy. A living trust is not made public and upon death of the grantor, the distribution of an estate is done in private.  A will becomes a public document once it is probated and anyone can view how you left your estate upon your passing.

3) Quicker access to funds- Probating a will and having the Surrogates Court grant authority to the executor can take months. With a Revocable Living Trust, the successor trustee can gain access the person’s funds quickly and distribute them according to the terms of the trust.

4) Revocable– The trust can be changed, revoked, or amended at any point during the grantor’s life. Once the grantor dies, the trust becomes irrevocable.

5) Protect your beneficiaries from creditors– Terms can be placed in the trust to protect your beneficiaries from creditors. If a trust owns the beneficiaries funds, creditors cannot gain access to those funds.

6) Avoid Ancillary Probate– If a person has property in multiple states, they can deed or transfer all property into the trust. Upon the passing of the grantor, the property can be distributed according to the trust. If a person has a will and resides in New York and has property in Florida, a court proceeding for probate would have to be started in New York. Following the executor given legal authority under the will by the Surrogates Court of New York, a second proceeding for Ancillary Probate would have to be started in Florida in order for the executor to collect the property in that state.

7) More Specific Terms– A trust gives the grantor more options as to when a beneficiary receives an inheritance or what condition is necessary for the beneficiary to receive their inheritance.

A Revocable Living Trust is more complex and expensive than a simple will, however, there are many benefits associated with it.