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Volume 3 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 87

Opinions of Counsel index

Veterans’ exemption (member of exempt class) (remarried widow) - Real Property Tax Law, § 458(1):

For purposes of section 458 (veterans’ exemption) when a widow remarries, she is no longer a member of the exempt class, and is not entitled to an exemption, and even if her second marriage ends in divorce, the exemption is not reinstated. If she survives a third husband, who was also a veteran, she again becomes a member of the class eligible to receive the exemption, based on such third husband’s eligible funds.

We have received an inquiry as to whether a thrice-married widow is entitled to a veterans’ exemption. The woman’s first husband, a veteran, died in 1952. The marriage to her second husband, a non-veteran, ended in divorce. Her third husband, a veteran, died in 1972. The widow is receiving a dependency and indemnity compensation based on the service of her first husband, after the death of her third husband. She is also receiving pension benefits for her stepchildren, based on the service and death of her third husband. She purchased property in 1973 and is presently applying such pension moneys toward the reduction of the principal balance of a purchase money mortgage. The question is whether the widow is entitled to an exemption pursuant to section 458 of the Real Property Tax Law, commonly called the veterans’ exemption, as the widow of the first husband.

In order to qualify for this exemption, the property must have been purchased with eligible funds and must be owned by a member of the exempt class (§ 458(1)).

The exempt class, as enumerated in the statute, includes the veteran or his wife, his unremarried widow, his dependent father and mother, and his minor children. When the widow of a veteran remarries, she no longer qualifies as a member of the exempt class. Once a valid marriage has been consummated (subsequent to the death of the veteran) she no longer can be classified as the “unremarried widow” of the veteran, despite the fact that the marriage has been terminated. The termination of the second marriage does not alter the fact that a valid marriage existed. Whether a second marriage ends in divorce (1 Op.Counsel SBEA No. 63) or in death, a woman does not regain the status of “unremarried widow” of the deceased veteran. However, if a second marriage is declared to be void, the judicial decree of annulment will reinstate the widow’s right to exemption (2 Op.Counsel SBEA No. 53).

Therefore the woman is not the unremarried widow of her first husband, and may not receive an exemption based on the use of eligible funds received by him or on account of his death.

Pension moneys received by the applicant as a result of the service or death of her third husband would qualify for veteran exemption purposes if applied toward the reduction of the existing purchase money mortgage.

February 25, 1974