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The Marriott timeshare resort on Oahu, Hawaii.

The Marriott timeshare resort on Oahu, Hawaii. (Val Bakhtin/Dreamstime/TNS)

Q: I was wondering what happens to my timeshare when I die. I have been trying to put my affairs (in order) to avoid my family having an issue after I pass. Thanks. - Anonymous

A: Planning for the inevitable is one of the kindest gifts you can give those whom you leave behind. Dealing with a probate estate is time-consuming and expensive, as well as often upsetting and occasionally adversarial. Fortunately, it is relatively easy to avoid probate with proper estate planning.

When you plan your estate, you need to look at all of your various assets, including bank accounts, investments, your home and other property, including timeshares. The process involves restructuring your ownership of these assets so that they will pass directly to the people you chose when you die, without the need to probate your estate. In effect, you are replacing your "will" with the plan, although you should still have a will just in case you did not properly plan for any of your assets.

Most timeshares are deeded and owned just like any other real estate. The misconception is that the owners share the property but can only use it at certain times. That is not the case. Rather, you own the physical unit - for example, "Unit 702" - only during the specified time, such as "Week 23," while other people own it during the other weeks.

Timeshares are governed by various agreements and possibly a community association, so you will need to check those documents to see whether there are any restrictions and adjust your plan accordingly. Timeshares can be set up just like any other investment property, with the most common methods including setting up a living trust, or putting the property into a life estate. It is best to consult an estate planning professional to discuss your options.

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ABOUT THE WRITER

Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He practices real estate, business litigation and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Fla. He is the chairman of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is a co-host of the weekly radio show Legal News and Review. He frequently consults on general real estate matters and trends in Florida with various companies across the nation. Send him questions online at www.sunsentinel.com/askpro or follow him on Twitter @GarySingerLaw.

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