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Can you refuse to inherit a timeshare in California?

One of the big things timeshare owners who’ve gotten treated badly are often afraid of is that their children will be saddled with the burden of maintenance fees when they die.

Unfortunately, this is often used not only as a scare tactic by the timeshare companies but also by some “timeshare exit” companies. The timeshare companies may try to frighten you into signing up for a new, more expensive timeshare, supposedly to protect your kids by replacing the old one. The “timeshare exit” companies may try to scare you into thinking that unless you hire them, your children will automatically be forced to own the timeshare and will have to pay all the maintenance fees you agreed to.

There are legitimate reasons to spend money trying to get out of a timeshare, but this probably isn’t one of them, at least in California. The legitimate things to be worried about are having your credit ruined if you stop paying or having to pay maintenance fees that are more than it would cost to just go ahead and sue the timeshare company to try to get out. But even though we’re a law firm that represents consumers in lawsuits or arbitrations, it’s important to tell the truth: if inheritance is your only concern, there are better ways to deal with the issue than paying us.

No one can make your children inherit anything. So just be aware of that from the start: your children shouldn’t be signing anything with the timeshare company if they don’t want it. Don’t have them use the timeshare under their names or after your death, don’t put their names on the paperwork, and don’t do anything that suggests they would be an owner.

You may already have listed them as a guest, but unless they signed something themselves, they can’t be forced to pay for something they didn’t agree to pay for.

That raises the issue of what happens to your estate. Will the timeshare company be able to come after the rest of your inheritance before it goes to your kids?

The chances of that are unlikely – the cost to them of hiring lawyers to try to do that would probably be more than what it was worth. And it’s not clear at all that it would work.

There are a couple of ways you could get around this if you’re worried about it. First, you often can name beneficiaries for many kinds of assets (401k’s, life insurance, etc.) which means those assets would directly go to your children without even hitting probate court. Second, you can name your children as executors of the estate, which can help control the process. And third, you can draw up a will beforehand and specifically give the timeshare to someone else. It could be a charity, for example, and they probably won’t want it either – but it makes it more clear it doesn’t go to your heirs.

What if you’ve been given a timeshare in someone’s will and you don’t want it? In California, Section 275 of the Probate Code lets you disclaim property from a will: “A beneficiary may disclaim any interest, in whole or in part, by filing a disclaimer as provided in this part.” Section 278 of the Probate Code states: “The disclaimer shall be in writing, shall be signed by the disclaimant, and shall: (a) Identify the creator of the interest. (b) Describe the interest to be disclaimed. (c) State the disclaimer and the extent of the disclaimer.”

You must file the disclaimer within a reasonable period of time, but for property from a will it’s presumed to be reasonable in California if it’s “within nine months after the death of the creator of the interest.”

You can read more about how disclaimers work in California here. It’s probably a good idea to hire a lawyer to help you with that because it’s fairly complex – our firm doesn’t do this kind of work, but you would want to find a local probate lawyer. They can also help timeshare owners make sure their assets go to their children.

But if you’re looking for an attorney to help try to get you out of a timeshare, then our law firm can help with that. There are good reasons to want to – the cost of your maintenance fees alone could make it worthwhile, let alone the cost of a low credit score if you stop paying. We handle lawsuits or arbitrations against timeshare companies who’ve lied to people or failed to live up to their promises. Call us at 657-845-3100 or e-mail us at contact@kneuppercovey.com. We may be able to help.

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