A family cottage can be a gathering place that brings loved ones together generations to come. Unfortunately, without a proper succession plan, disputes over ownership and operation can lead to litigation among the family.
Consider the example of a couple’s estate plan which provides that their two children will inherit equal shares of the family cottage. If each sibling also has two children and adopts the same succession plan, the third generation will have four co-owners. If the pattern continues, the number of co-owners will double every generation. As the number of co-owners grows, so does the potential for litigation.
Maintaining a cottage also requires payment of property taxes, insurance, and other upkeep costs. If one co-owner cannot or will not contribute to the costs, the others must cover the shortfall or sue the non-contributing member. A succession plan can establish consequences for failure to contribute that do not require court involvement, such as losing the right to use the home or an automatic reduction in ownership share.
Lastly, family members may disagree about how the property is maintained and improved. Some owners may wish to preserve the historic aesthetics while others may wish to modernize. Surprisingly, co-ownership does not mean majority rule. Any co-owner may make changes or improvements to the cottage so long as the change is not destructive or damaging.
Disputes over the family cottage often escalate until someone files a complaint for partition. Because most properties cannot be divided and split among the co-owners, the court will order the sale of the cottage and the proceeds to be divided.
A clear succession plan preserves harmony and ensures that your family's getaway stays in the family for generations.
If you want to preserve your family cottage or vacation home, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 248.477.6300.