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Volume 9 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 121

Opinions of Counsel index

Assessment roll (designation of owner) (title through right of survivorship) - Real Property Tax Law, § 502; Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act, § 1923; 9 NYCRR 190-1.3:

In preparing the assessment roll, an assessor should enter the name of the owner of a parcel who has taken title through a right of survivorship even though no deed has been prepared and delivered.

We have received an inquiry concerning real property, the title to which was held jointly (with a right of survivorship) by a husband and his wife. Following the wife’s death, the assessor refused to enter the widower as sole owner of the property in the absence of a deed. We have been asked whether section 1923 of the Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act, concerning notices to assessors by fiduciaries of decedents, has any application to this situation.

Section 1923 originated as a legislative proposal of the New York State Association of County Directors of Real Property Tax Services. It directs fiduciaries of decedents to notify assessors when real property of a decedent is transferred upon or after the decedent’s death. This notification is especially important where title to real property is transferred but no deed is issued.

When property passes through a right of survivorship, there is no requirement that a deed be filed. Upon the death of a tenant by the entirety or a joint tenant, the survivor takes title through the initial grant (Hiles v. Fisher, 144 N.Y. 306, 39 N.E. 337 (1895)). In this case, since the widower is now the sole owner by right of survivorship, and he has provided proof of that fact, the assessor should make the necessary change.

Section 1923 establishes a requirement that certain information be furnished to assessors. This will assist the assessor in performing his or her duty of completing an inventory of the names of the owners of real property (Real Property Tax Law, § 500(1)) and entering the name of the owner, reputed owner or last known owner of a parcel of real property on the assessment roll (RPTL, § 502(2); 9 NYCRR 190-1.3(b)(1)).

August 17, 1993