Top 5 Concerns of Cottage Owners
For many, the family cottage is a place for relaxing, swimming, playing and most importantly – for spending time with family. Often, the family cottage is an individual’s most important asset, both financially and emotionally. Unfortunately, the family cottage can also be a source of stress. Complaints about family cottages vary from family to family, but they can usually be grounded into five categories. Based on our experiences, both professionally and personally, the following is a list of the Top Five Concerns of Cottage Owners:
1. Nobody is in charge/ Everybody is in charge
Perhaps the primary complaint encountered when multiple members of the same family own a cottage is that important decisions simply don’t get made. When several people all have an equal say in how things get done – but have no process by which to resolve disputes or disagreements – important decisions often do not get made. Alternatively, one person might make all of those decisions without seeking appropriate input from the other owners.
2. We can’t decide how to allocate routine expenses among the cottage owners.
One common source of dispute is how to allocate cottage expenses. Some people might find it fairest to allocate all expenses equally among each owner regardless of use. Others feel that all such expenses should be allocated among the owners based on each owner’s use. As is often the case, if two owners approach this issue from opposite sides, at least one – if not more – of the owners is going to end up unhappy and frustrated.
3. We can’t agree on scheduling use of the cottage.
Without a detailed plan, using the cottage is basically a “free for all.“ Sometimes that works great. More often, however, it can cause tension because it is common for several owners to want to use the cottage at the same time. Without adequate planning and communication, it simply can be too easy for one owner to monopolize the use of the cottage to the detriment of the others.
4. I live out of town – or – I already own my own cottage.
Frequently, by the time both parents have died, one or more of the children may live much further away from the cottage than others. It is also relatively common that one or more of the children might have already purchased his or her own cottage. This can lead to several different problems, including conflicts regarding whether a child even wants to be involved in the cottage, amount of use, how expenses are to be paid, and, most of all, whether a child can force a sale of the cottage. Careful planning in advance of these issues can eliminate these problems by determining each child’s hopes and goals and establishing a workable plan for the future generations.
5. Should a spouse be entitled to cottage ownership when an owner dies?
A concern which often is not considered until the unexpected occurs is whether an owner’s spouse will be entitled to ownership of the cottage after an owner dies. While the owner is alive, the spouse probably uses the cottage frequently. Should he or she continue to be allowed to use the cottage? If so, in what capacity? Unfortunately, this is a question which is rarely considered in advance.
The good news is that with sufficient planning, the above concerns – and others- can be avoided. Because we both have ties to family cottages in Michigan, our approach to cottage planning is unique. We not only understand the complex legal issues related to cottages, but we also understand the practical issues related to cottages. Through this blog, we hope to help you address the “Top Five Concerns of Cottage Owners” and much more!