Coro­n­avirus, time­shares — and you

Times Standard (Eureka) - - OPIN­ION - H. Den­nis Beaver Den­nis Beaver prac­tices law in Bak­ers­field and wel­comes com­ments and ques­tions from read­ers, which may be faxed to 661-323-7993, or emailed to Lagombeave­r1@gmail.com. And be sure to visit den­nis­beaver.com.

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 ...

Jen­ni­son rec­om­mends do­ing the fol­low­ing anal­y­sis if any­one stands to in­herit a time­share:

• 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

Jen­ni­son points out that, “Merely be­cause your 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 time­share com­pany! Do not use the time­share 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, 2019, 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.

If you com­pare the cost to rent a com­pa­ra­ble va­ca­tion unit ... in al­most ev­ery sit­u­a­tion, this will con­vince you NOT to ac­cept the in­ter­est.

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