A sandy beach on the perfect summer day and campfire cookouts under the stars. A family weekend at the cottage usually means lots of fun and memory-making. Many Hoosier families enjoy escaping life’s hustle and bustle by heading to their own cottages or vacation homes.
But what happens when it’s time for the family cottage property to be passed on? All sorts of questions and legal challenges—not to mention squabbles amidst loved ones—can arise and unnecessarily strain relationships. Because family cottages tend to carry high sentimental value, there can be extremely strong emotions involved.
As with most family issues, proactive, honest communication is key. It’s best to talk through things together as a family before they become urgent problems. And candid conversations around the dining room table can be far less stressful than having to untangle matters in court. It’s important to hear and understand each member’s interest in the cottage, and try to come to agreeable decisions as a group.
And you don’t have to already own the cottage to initiate this conversation within your family. You may be one of the adult children or other relatives who stand to inherit the cottage. Or you might not be interested in it at all, but just don’t want to see your family torn apart over unnecessary conflict. Regardless of your position, here’s a list of discussion questions to get the conversation started:
Property Usage & Maintenance
- Who is interested in owning and/or using the cottage after it’s passed down?
- Who should be able to use the cottage when?
- Are there any usage rules or guidelines that should be agreed upon?
- Are guests/friends of the family allowed to stay?
- Who will be responsible for monitoring, cleaning, and maintaining the property?
- Can/should it ever be rented out or used by non-family?
Costs & Taxes
- What estate or gift taxes might come into play when the property is passed down?
- How will the ongoing property taxes be paid for?
- Who pays for any association fees?
- How will cottage repairs and maintenance costs be handled?
- Who and how will the property be stocked with necessities?
- What happens if a co-owner wants to sell his or her share of the property?
- Do the other co-owners have the option to purchase this family member’s share?
- What is the value of each share?
- What happens in the case of unexpected death or divorce in the family?
These questions are ideal for kick-starting a conversation about the family cottage. And they’ll help inform what next steps need to be taken. In many cases, it’s helpful to talk with a seasoned real estate and/or estate planning attorney. They can help you wade through options and discuss legal and tax benefits around things like forming an LLC, different types of property ownership arrangements, and estate planning guidance. If we can help in any way, please contact Cecelia Neihouser Harper at 765-637-9175.
The content of this blog is intended to be general and informational in nature. It is advertising material and is not intended to be, nor is it, legal advice to or for any particular person, case, or circumstance. Each situation is different, and you should consult an attorney if you have any questions about your situation.