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What Happens to a Club Membership Upon the Death of a Member

By Brandan J. Pratt, Esq., CFP®

Retirees flock to South Florida based on the allure of the South Florida lifestyle, which often includes memberships to various types of clubs including country clubs, golf clubs, beach clubs, tennis clubs and yacht clubs. Many club memberships are equity memberships that cost in excess of one-hundred thousand dollars to join. Members are partial owners of the clubs that have equity memberships, and often
times, the equity membership can be transferred upon the death of a member.

Estate planning lawyers may be under the impression that a club membership can be devised simply by drafting provisions in a will. However, the relationship between a club and a member is contractual. Susi v. St. A ndrews Country Club, Inc., 727 So. 2d 1058 (Fla. 4th DCA 1999). Further, a decedent’s property can be transferred upon death outside of probate proceedings by way of contract. Blechman v. Estate of Blechman, 160 So. 3d 152 (Fla. 4th DCA 2015). “The common thread of such non-probate mechanisms is that the assets to which they apply are distributed to the designated beneficiaries immediately upon the transferor’s death without the need for judicial intervention.” Blechman v. Estate of Blechman, 160 So. 3d at 157. Therefore, because the relationship between a club and a member is contractual in nature, the club membership agreement typically controls the method by which the membership is transferred upon the death of a member even if there are provisions in a decedent’s will that contrast with the terms of the club membership agreement.

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