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Volume 5 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 72

Opinions of Counsel index

Veterans’ exemption (member of exempt class) (surviving spouse) - Real Property Tax Law, § 458:

Where the unremarried widow of a veteran transfers title to her property to herself and her son, she may continue to receive a veterans’ exemption (Real Property Tax Law, §458). If she and her son are joint tenants, her exemption may be applied against the entire assessed value of the parcel. If she and her son are tenants-in-common (with equal shares), she may apply her exemption against one-half of the assessment unless the son is also a member of the exempt class in which case the exemption may again be applied against the entire assessment.

Effective September 1, 1976, the unremarried surviving spouse will be eligible to receive the veterans’ exemption. Thus, the widower of a female veteran will be entitled to receive the benefit of his late wife’s exemption. However, where he is also a veteran, his total exemption will still be limited to $5,000.

We have received two inquiries concerning the veterans’ exemption from real property taxation (Real Property Tax Law, §458).

The first inquiry concerns a widow of a veteran, who is receiving a veterans’ exemption, and who deeds her property to herself and her 18 year old son. The question is if she may retain her exemption.

Section 458 of the Real Property Tax Law provides that real property purchased with eligible funds and owned by a veteran, his wife, his unremarried widow, his children less than 21 years of age, or his dependent parents is entitled to an exemption to the extent of the eligible funds used in the purchase of the property but not to exceed $5,000.

Assuming that the widow in question is unremarried, she may continue to receive the exemption despite the transfer of title to herself and her son. If the property is owned by the unremarried widow and her son as joint tenants, each is considered to be the owner of the entire parcel and therefore, she may apply her exemption against the total assessed value of the property. If she and her son own the real property as tenants in common (with equal shares), she can apply her exemption against one-half of the assessed value of the property, unless the son is also the son (less than 21 years of age) of the deceased veteran, in which case, the exemption may be applied to the total assessed value.

The second question concerns a situation where both the husband and wife are veterans. The wife dies and the question is if the widowed husband may retain his wife’s veterans’ exemption. As is stated above, the wife or unremarried widow of a veteran may continue to receive an exemption following the death of her husband. We have said that the widower of a veteran is not entitled to receive the exemption (4 Op.Counsel SBEA No. 78). However, please note that chapter 63 of the Laws of 1976 has amended section 458 to make the spouse or unremarried surviving spouse of a veteran eligible to receive an exemption. This amendment becomes effective September 1, 1976.

We have previously indicated that where two veterans own real property as joint tenants, and each is entitled to claim an exemption to the extent of eligible funds used in the purchase of the property, not to exceed $5,000 as to each veteran, a total exemption of $10,000 may be granted (2 Op.Counsel SBEA No. 106). However, we have also said that:

The fact that eligible funds may have been received by one member of the eligible class in separate capacities does not alter the fact that the $5,000 limitation is absolute (3 Op.Counsel SBEA No. 43).

In other words, even after the aforementioned chapter becomes effective, a widower in a situation similar to the one presented will be limited to a total exemption of $5,000 despite the fact that he may be eligible to receive an exemption both as a veteran in his own right and as the unremarried surviving spouse of another veteran.

April 28, 1976

Updated: