April 24, 2020 • By Dennis Beaver
Over the past several weeks I have heard from several readers who have discovered that their parents purchased a timeshare and are now ill with the coronavirus. Some have died. “What happens to their timeshare?” is the question.
“As their heirs, are we still on the hook for all of the yearly fees our parents were paying. They hated the thing and could never get any use out of it,” I’ve heard repeatedly.
Many were prompted to contact me after finding articles I’ve written about these horrible timeshare contracts. But it gets worse, as there is an entire industry–some of which staffed by pure scammers–who are spreading lies about what happens in the event a timeshare owner dies.
Chances are that you have seen television, radio and internet commercials featuring Chuck McDowell, CEO and Founder of Wesley Financial Group, who proudly proclaims having “One goal in mind, helping folks just like you cancel their timeshare contract…(because) even when you die, your family will be stuck with this burden.”
Not so fast, Chuck.
An Estate Lawyer’s Opinion
I asked Bakersfield estate planning attorney Patrick Jennison for his experience with clients in the same situation as my readers.
“In my experience as an estate planner, perhaps 10% of clients owning a timeshare are happy they own it. The other 90% still suffer from buyer’s remorse years after buying it and feel that the purchase was a significant financial mistake.
“Timeshares are almost never seen by estate planning attorneys and their clients who bought them as valuable. More than any other asset in an estate, a timeshare is a hideous liability.
“In my over 40 years as an estate planner, when the Buyer/Initial Owner does not see it as a benefit, the party who inherits a timeshare interest will look upon the inheritance as a pointless liability. And the inheriting party/heir to that timeshare interest is absolutely correct in their perception.
If Tempted to Accept the Inheritance
Jennison recommends doing the following analysis if anyone stands to inherit a time share:
–Look carefully at the costs to retain the timeshare, including annual maintenance fees and other assessments.
–What is the real benefit you will be getting out of the timeshare?
–If you compare the cost to rent a comparable vacation unit whenever and wherever you want, in almost every situation, this will convince you NOT to accept the interest.
Steps You Must Take to Avoid Inheriting the Timeshare
Jennison points out that, “Merely because you are named in a trust, a will, or if there is no will and a decedents’s property would be distributed according to intestate succession, it does not mean you are forced to accept that gift. This applies to any gift, a timeshare or a dilapidated, condemned house or old clunker of a car. You are not obligated to accept anything given to you.
“If you do not accept it, either by Disclaimer or merely ignoring and forfeiting the interest, you have no legal, ethical or moral obligation to pay any expenses, including maintenance fees, related to that timeshare interest.
“But whatever you do, do not pay anything to the time share company! Do not use the time share or show any intent to become contractually bound,” he underscores.
“The simple act of submitting to the executor of a will or other personal representative, the trustee of a trust. a written document stating “I do not accept (—timeshare interest) and direct that this gift is disclaimed by me and to be treated as if I was deceased without descendants.
“If that is not possible because the interest has simply been transferred to you, advise the timeshare company of the death, that no party has accepted the interest, and the timeshare interest is ‘turned back’ to the timeshare, company/property owner.
Jennison’s advice concludes with this comment:
“My advice, as you might conclude, is do not buy, do not own, do not accept a timeshare, by gift or inheritance. It is not worth it, even if it is free.”
On Nov. 20, Wesley Financial Group’s Better Business Accreditation was revoked by BBB’s Board of Directors due to “engaging in activities reflecting poorly on the BBB or its members on the Better Business Bureau.”
I went on Wesley Financial’s website, up popped a chat window, and was greeted by Megan, who asked, “How may I help you?” So, I wrote, “If I own a time share and die will my kids be stuck with it?” She replied, “Unfortunately, yes.”
It is nice to see that Chuck’s employees are all drinking the Kool-Aid.
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.