Will my kids be stuck with my Timeshare when I die?
This free article answers a very common question many folks have regarding the disposal or inheritance of a Timeshare upon the death of the owner. With so many scammers spreading lies and misinformation in the industry today in an attempt to convince owners they must "act now" and pay a large upfront fee, this article is intended to provide you with the facts!
This is a subject many don't really understand. They hear something about "probate", and the only thing they know about it is that it should be avoided. First, the disclaimer: We are not attorneys and this article is not intended to give legal advice. Seek the advice of a competent local attorney for your situation should you have detailed questions about your own estate!
Timeshare in Probate
OK, the legal stuff is out of the way. So what exactly is probate? Probate is the court process to determine the new owners of property after an owner's death. If someone dies and that person was the only owner of the time share, who now owns it? That's what a probate judge is going to decide. "Ah!", you say, "I have a will!". Doesn't matter, it's still going to Probate Court. Why?
A will gives your intentions of to whom you want things left to. It is not necessarily the legal means to actually do so. Your time share will still need to go to a probate judge in the state in which the time share sits. Now it's not really all that bad. Normally the judge looks at the will and doles out the property according to how the will reads. Case closed except for some paperwork. Of course, if the will is contested, all bets are off.
We get calls from family members all the time who state they have been named Executor of an estate and that a time share was left to the estate. Possibly there was no will. They want to sell it, turn it into cash and divide the money. First thing we ask is if the time share has gone to probate yet. If the answer is "no", we can't do anything. The reason is that someone has to sign the listing agreement to sell the time share. They'll then have to sign documents and a new deed. Since the owner is now deceased, who has the power to sell it and sign the paperwork? Right now, no one. In this case the probate judge would give the Executor the legal power to sign documents and sell the property. But until that legal power is granted, nothing can happen. And I mean nothing. No one can even use it in any fashion. However, if a maintenance fee bill comes due, it still must be paid! So it's best to get these things handled in short order.
How to avoid Probate?
There's a few ways. First, if more than one person (a husband and wife is most common) is on the title, the property automatically is now owned by the surviving party. No probate needed. If that person sells it at some time in the future they'll only need a copy of the death certificate if the deed still has the deceased's name on it.
Or, you can add the name of an adult child to it. Same thing happens. You don't necessarily want to add a child who is not yet of legal age because that person cannot sign legal documents.
Then, you can get a bit fancier and put the time share in a Trust. This will also avoid probate. This gets a bit more complicated and here you should definitely seek the advice of an attorney or estate planner to investigate this option further as there are many different kinds of Trusts available!
What if noone wants the Timeshare?
The absolute first step any family member should take when discovering an unwanted timeshare is to determine if anyone alive is left on the deed (see information above).
Step 2 would be ensuring that noone left in the family actually WANTS to inherit the timeshare.
Step 3 is contacting the resort (or resort developer) to inform them that there are no remaining living owners on the deed, and that you would like information on surrendering the ownership back to the resort. Note that the resort will likely require payment of any outstanding dues or fees left on the account before taking it back!
The Final Word on Inheriting a Timeshare!
The most important takeaway from this is that NOONE can be forced to inherit a Timeshare, period! If the listed owners have passed on, no matter what anyone else says an heir cannot be magically added as an owner! Now it is very common for the resort or management company to continue to send statements/bills, as they would have no way of knowing the owner(s) are deceased and it is also extremely common for heirs (or the estate) to continue to pay those bills but that does not somehow assume ownership or responsiblity!
This situation is one that you need to begin planning for as it is FAR easier to deal with before the owners are deceased! Or at the very least, discuss these options with your children/heirs before your passing so they are not subject to the scammers that will take advantage of them not knowing any better!
If you would like more detailed help/advice on your particular timeshare situation, come check out our free Timeshare owner Discussion forums! There are tens of thousands of other Timeshare owners just like you who answer questions 24 hours a day!