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Including a family vacation home in an estate plan

Summer in Washington is a time for families to take vacations together and enjoy the beautiful weather. Many families own vacation homes in the area and these homes can become a point of contention for these families. Many vacation home owners want their homes to be passed to their heirs, but that can lead to difficulties.

Some vacation homes have been in the same family for generations, or current owners have dreams of the home passing down through the generations smoothly. But in some cases, the vacation home is a contentious issue and families can be torn apart by the fighting. Sharing and co-owning a vacation home is challenging so there are some tips for families to help keep the vacation home happily in the family.

First, it is important to know who really owns the home. The home may have been passed to a group of siblings, grandkids or other heirs. Families may have even set up a limited liability company to allocate the ownership among family members. It is important for everyone to know what they own and how much they own.

Next, there should be regular meetings among the people who own the home. The meetings should include what maintenance needs to be done, the schedule of who will be using the home, how to handle access to the home on major holidays and other important issues. During these meetings, rules should be set up for the use of the home. These rules should include who can use the home, when the home is available to be used, what are the expectations for cleaning and outside maintenance, and what should be done if something unexpected happens.

Finally, vacation homes are often expensive. The owners need to come to an agreement as to how expenses should be handled. There are many expenses including taxes, maintenance, renovations, repairs and usage costs. These expenses should be reviewed annually so that everyone is on the same page.

If a person wants to pass their vacation home down to family members, they should address this in an estate plan. Thorough estate planning can include information on sharing the vacation home and can alleviate some of the problems that heirs can face when it comes to inheriting vacation homes.

Source:, "Sharing the family vacation home", Patricia Angus, July 31, 2015

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