The New York State Equality Act which was signed into law on June 24, 2011 is now bringing about some new changes. The Act which legally recognizes same sex marriages, as of July 24, 2011, allows New York same sex couples to hold title to real estate as tenants by the entirety. Prior to New York recognizing same sex marriages, the only individuals who could own property as tenants by the entirety were married couples. Prior to the new legislation, same sex couples could only hold title to real estate as tenants in common or joint tenants with right of survivorship. A benefit of holding title as tenants by the entirety is that the co-owner is unable to transfer the property without the knowledge or participation of the other co-owner. Additionally, by operation of law, upon the passing of one spouse or co-owner, the property automatically belongs to the surviving owner. Another benefit is the unique creditor rights that attach to the ownership interests of tenants by the entirety which, afford more protection to same sex couples that were not possible before.
Same sex couples should be aware that the new legislation is not retroactive in effect and there fore, same sex couples may want to consider having a new deed prepared and recorded in the land records to reflect their wishes to hold title to real estate as tenants by the entirety.