Build a cottage estate plan to stop family feuds

Testators need to take the initiative to stop a feud developing over the future of the family cottage.

As one of the more valuable assets in any estate, there’s always a chance the fate of the cottage could ignite a dispute among beneficiaries.

But it’s the extra layer of emotional baggage that comes with a lifetime of happy holiday memories – especially when a property has been in the family for generations – that makes it a potentially explosive issue.

In the current pandemic, families have been making even more memories than usual as cottage use soars for people seeking a relatively local escape from the city that doesn’t involve crossing borders.

It doesn’t matter whether the property is rustic or regal – I’ve seen family relationships permanently damaged many times over cottages of all shapes and sizes.

In my view, the onus is on the owners to spend some time figuring out a strategy that will allow the property to be conveyed to their children as smoothly as possible.

After getting a valuation done, cottage owners may want to sit down with their beneficiaries to get a sense of what they think should happen to the property. The answers may not always be the ones you expect.

Anyone from a larger family will recognize the dynamics I typically encounter in my practice – one sibling might be interested in taking on the cottage and able to pay for the upkeep, while another might want to use the place but can’t really afford the associated cost. Another sibling may want to call the cottage their primary residence, and there’s often one with no emotional connection who wants to sell up and pocket the cash.

You can work any number of strategies into your will concerning the cottage, including a right of first refusal or some other mechanism that allows one or several children to buy the remaining siblings out.

If you sense it’s all going to be too much trouble, you may even decide to sell the cottage outright to prevent a rift developing after you’re gone.

Disclaimer: The content on this web site is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice or an opinion of any kind. Users of this web site are advised to seek specific legal advice by contacting members of Laredo Law (or their own legal counsel) regarding any specific legal issues.

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