Probating A Disney Vacation Club Timeshare – What You Need To Know

Jan 25, 2024

Recently, our firm handled a case for someone who passed away and owned a Disney Vacation Club timeshare. 

This is a flexible timeshare program where members purchase a real estate interest, represented by Vacation Points, which they use to book accommodations at Disney Resorts and other destinations. DVC holders get access to incredible membership benefits and perks, and save up to 50% on future accommodations over the life of the membership. 

A DVC is one of the best things for a Disney parks-lover to own! DVC membership can also be passed down to kids and grandkids, just like other timeshares, real estate properties, and assets can be; however, there is a catch! 

Typically, when someone passes away, anything they own that is only owned in their name – with no joint owner, beneficiary, or payable on death designee – will have to go through a court process known as probate. The probate process legally transfers all of the assets they owned to their heirs. If they had a will, their assets are distributed according to the terms of their will; if they didn’t, through a process known as intestate succession.

Now, a Disney Vacation Club timeshare is a very valuable and particular type of asset, and Disney/ the state of Florida has unique laws when it comes to how this asset has to be probated (with or without a will). Especially if there is a deed recorded in the official county records, probate is necessary, or the timeshare will still be on record as being owned by the deceased individual (which can present numerous headaches for surviving family members).

Here are some things you need to know about probating a Disney Vacation Club timeshare if 

  • you own one yourself,
  • if someone you love has passed away and owned one, 
  • or if you have a loved one nearing retirement who owns one! 

What Is So Different About Probating A Disney Vacation Club Timeshare?

Most of the time, probate (estate administration) will take place in the county where the deceased person resided at the time of their death. However, for a Disney Vacation Club membership, if the sole owner of the deed has died, the family needs to open probate for this asset in the county where the Disney Vacation Club property is located. 

That is because DVC is legally a timeshare, and it falls under the real estate category. Real estate is always governed by the laws of the state in which it is located, not the law of the state where the owner lives. This means that you may potentially have to work directly with a Florida probate lawyer to probate the DVC, as well as with a probate lawyer in the state your loved one passed away in (or the state where you live).

Domiciliary Versus Ancillary Administration

When there is a case where someone passed away but owned real estate (or a timeshare) in another state, probate will first begin in the deceased person’s state of residence. This is known as domiciliary probate. Then a second probate case can be opened in the state where the real estate/timeshare is – for Disney Vacation Club members, that would be Florida. This is known as ancillary probate. Once a will has been accepted by the first state, the second state will usually accept it as valid without further verification. 

For the case that our firm handled, we did an ancillary administration in Osceola County near Disney World. We tag teamed with another lawyer in the decedent’s state of residence, and they handled the domiciliary administration. 

Summary Versus Formal Administration In Florida

Disney Vacation Club memberships hold different values, but the DVC resort points often appreciate in value (unlike other types of vacation clubs). If the asset is worth over $75,000, formal administration – a traditional probate process will likely be necessary. Formal administration involves a long series of court-supervised steps and extensive paperwork.

However, the particular market value of the timeshare we handled was worth less than $75,000, so we were able to proceed with summary administration. Summary probate is a much cheaper, faster, simpler alternative to formal probate. It takes a few weeks to transfer the assets once the paperwork is completed, as opposed to a few months. 

The end result of either type of probate, when everything is resolved correctly, is that the decedent’s heirs receive the DVC membership; it’s transferred to their name, and they can carry on their loved one’s love of Disney’s empire! 

The Bottom Line – If A Death Involved A Disney Vacation Club Timeshare, You Need A Florida Probate Lawyer’s Help! 

Florida law requires that a licensed probate lawyer be involved in formal administration. Whether or not a lawyer is involved in summary administration is up to the families (specifically, it is the final decision of the estate executor, or person named in the will/by the courts as being “in charge” of the process); however, it is HIGHLY recommended. People who attempt probate – even a simpler version! – on their own often make mistakes that end up costing them more time and money to fix than if they had worked with an experienced attorney who could have prevented errors. 

At Osenton Law, Attorney O. Reginald “Reggie” Osenton has been helping clients with probate, including probate cases that involve real estate in Florida or beyond, for over 33 years; he is also extremely experienced with probating Disney Vacation Club timeshares. You can trust him to assist you with every aspect of this special probate case! 

Whether your loved one who passed away and owned DVC lived in Florida, or lived in another state, or if you own DVC and are wanting to put it in a trust in order to prevent your kids and grandkids from having to go through ancillary probate in order to take ownership of it, call Reggie today to get more information about your next steps. You can book a free consultation, ask questions you may have about probating a Disney Vacation Club timeshare, and discuss the way forward!