If you are fortunate enough to go on that well-deserved vacation this year, then there is a good chance you will find yourself listening to the all too familiar timeshare marketing ‘pitch’. The repercussions of owning a timeshare can vary tremendously depending on many things, including whether it is a real property interest, a mere right to use the property, or some other arrangement.
1. Timeshares are not inherently bad investments. If a timeshare really interests you (they are legitimate and worthwhile investments for many families), you can plan in advance to take ownership the right way and avoid problems down the road. Most people do not realize the thicket of possible legal ramifications inevitable to owning one (or more).
2. Type of ownership is critical. If you own real property outside Virginia and die without proper estate planning documents in place – a simple will is usually not enough – then a representative of your estate must appear in every state where such property is located. If you die without a trust to dispose of your assets, then the court system where the timeshare is located will either probate your will, or follow the statutes of the state if you have no will.
If the deed to your current or prospective timeshare is a leasehold deed, then it means ownership only lasts for a period of time. A right to use contract means what it sounds like – the purchaser acquires a right to use and enjoy the rights of the property (usually a resort). However, the pitfall of a right to use contract is that some benefits you may not care about, like a club membership, may be included.
3. You should not decide then and there. Do not sign anything before you leave, unless you already have a revocable living trust and have already met with your lawyer regarding the timeshare you are considering. The concept of a timeshare is attractive, but before saying “yes” it is imperative to speak with a good estate-planning attorney. For those who own timeshares already, whether or not you are considering an additional purchase, it is very important to be sure that transfer of your ownership interests in these timeshares upon your death will not result in expensive and time-consuming paperwork for your heirs.