‘Tis the Season to be scary. Halloween was grafted onto the ancient Celtic pagan holiday of Samhain. There are said to be places and times when the barrier between this world and that “other world” is very thin. In fact, the Irish have a word the “thin places,” Caol Áit. The holiday of Samhain is one of those times when ghosts and goblins are said to walk among us more freely and with greater insolence. What is the difference between these things that go bump in the night and timeshares? Unlike the ghosts and goblins, a timeshare can be a horror that is always with us.

For many, the burden of increasing annual maintenance costs and the diminishing satisfaction with their timeshares has resulted in a considerable number of attorneys who represent owners trying to get out of their timeshare contracts.  While some timeshare companies will release you from your obligation – for a price, others will prove less cooperative.

Most timeshares are like real property – they can be sold, given away in your Will, or pass by intestacy to your distributees.

The day may come when Mom or Dad says to child, “I’m leaving you my timeshare in my Will.”  In keeping with the season, is this a trick or a treat?  The prospect of owning a timeshare may be more of a horror than a delight.  The location is unpalatable, the process of swapping for other locations is a headache (if the option is even available), and those expenses keep rising.

From an estate planning perspective, there is no obligation to accept a gift, bequest, devise, or even a distribution from an estate of a person who died without a Will. Disclaiming the interest in the timeshare is possible, but the timeshare may remain an estate obligation that burdens the other distributees or residuary beneficiaries. Therefore, a season’s warning to parents out there: keep in mind the risks and benefits of your timeshares and their impact on your loved one when you pass from this world to . . . .

Some reference guides:

Timeshares and Vacation Plans, from the United States Federal Trade Commission:

Time Shares Consumer Guide

Before You Buy a Timeshare, New York Office of the Attorney General:

Real Estate Finance Bureau Timeshare updates

Vacation Timesharing, The Better Business Bureau of New York:

BBB Timeshares

Michael P. Ryan is chair of the firm’s trusts and estates and estate litigation practice groups. He counsels individuals, families, and owners of closely held businesses regarding estate and succession planning, charitable giving and tax matters. He also represents clients in contested estate proceedings, such as probate contests, administration proceedings, discovery and turnover proceedings, accounting proceedings, proceedings to suspend and remove fiduciaries, and guardianship proceedings.  Mike can be reached at mryan@jaspanllp.com or (516) 393-8253