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Volume 4 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 40

Opinions of Counsel index

Clergymen’s exemption (unremarried widow) (joint ownership) - Real Property Tax Law, § 460:

An unremarried widow of a clergyman may receive an exemption pursuant to section 460 of the Real Property Tax Law while she is an actual resident and inhabitant of the State even if she is not the sole owner of her real property.

We have received an inquiry as to whether the limited exemption allowable on real property owned by clergy under section 460 of the Real Property Tax Law would apply where the unremarried widow of a clergyman, who has been entitled to the exemption, puts the title to the property in her name and her son’s name.

Pursuant to the provisions of section 460, real property owned by the unremarried widow of a clergyman, while she is an actual resident and inhabitant of this State, is entitled to a limited exemption of $1,500 on such real property. The fact that the unremarried widow in this inquiry is not the sole owner of the property would not disqualify her from eligibility for the exemption.

The amount of the exemption allowable depends upon whether the parties own the property as tenants in common or as joint tenants. If the unremarried widow and her son hold as tenants in common (an estate held in joint possession by two or more persons at the same time by several and distinct titles), the exemption would be determined as to the separate interest of the widow and would be limited to the value of such interest, not to exceed the statutory limitation of $1,500. Thus, if the widow and her son each own an equal interest as tenants in common, the maximum exemption allowable would apply to 50 percent of the property representing the separate interest of the widow which in any event cannot exceed the statutory limitation of $1,500.

However, if the parties own as joint tenants, the exemption could not be limited to a partial interest in the property since under a joint tenancy each of the parties has an identical undivided interest in the property. Thus, if the parties own as joint tenants, the exemption should be computed on the basis of the value of the entire property.

November 6, 1974

Updated: