As an estate planning attorney, I have seen too many situations where after the parents’ deaths, the children go to war over the family’s vacation home. If the parents do not create a good post-death master plan for the property, it’s almost guaranteed that the kids will disagree over: (i) whether to keep or sell the property, (ii) to improve it or keep the worn-out 1970s furniture, (iii) who is going to pay the real property taxes, insurance, utilities and upkeep costs, (iv) usage (some will use it more than others), and (v) many other items too numerous to mention.
These types of problems can be resolved if the parents do their homework and adopt a plan that anticipates and avoids potential problems and has a mechanism for resolving disputes. Attorney Wendy S. Goffe has written an excellent and very detailed three part article on this subject called “From NASCAR Condominiums to Private Mausoleums: Keeping the Vacation Home in the Family.”
Few families successfully transfer ownership of a cabin or vacation property by accident. Families that do accomplish this Herculean feat do so only with a great deal of advanced multi-generational planning, often with mechanisms to adjust the plan as circumstances and needs change. . . .
The legal mechanism for transferring the property is only the first of many challenges. Following the transfer, the next generation must determine how to maintain the property; how to pay taxes, insurance, and maintenance; and how to divide its use among the family members. The transfer itself is relatively easy compared to maintaining harmony among its owners following the transfer.
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