As the Canada Day long weekend approaches, many begin looking forward to the start of a relaxing, sun-filled summer with family and friends. Children are finishing up the school year and parents are planning activities for their highly-anticipated vacation days.

Many of the lucky ones get to spend time at family cottages during these months, trading in the hustle and bustle of city life for some lakeside recreation.

While the joys of these cottage times are bountiful and the memories that come with it unforgettable, cottages can too cause strain in familial relationships. Integral to the fabric of many lives, cottages are among the most fought over assets in estate litigation.

As lawyers who deal with trust and estate litigation, mediation and estate planning on a regular basis, in a cottage-country-rich region like Ontario, we often encounter issues surrounding family cottages.  

As such, the topic has been touched on in past pieces such as The Family Cottage, Holding a Cottage in Trust and Cottage Succession Planning.

Deciding how to bequeath the family cottage may prove to be anything but simple. Emotions run deep and, unlike with some other commonly sought-after assets, the desire for a chunk or all of a cottage property is often more about emotional attachment and memories than the money.

The key to ensuring future generations can enjoy the cottage as much as you and your family have is to plan ahead. Have a discussion or family meeting with your children to let them know what you are thinking so it won’t come as a surprise later. It may turn out that some are more interested in a share of the property than others, possibly altering how you choose to deal with it.

It is also important to note that here is another aspect of the cottage- the value- and it should be recognized as such. Speaking to a lawyer or other professional that deals with these kinds of assets regularly can help you with arrangements.

Consider what option is the best for your family when it comes to who wants what and whether or not your children can afford the taxes and upkeep involved when you’re gone. If your priority is to keep your cottage within the family, working towards this from an early stage can help ensure your wishes are respected. 

Some food for thought to accompany a cool drink on dock. 

Have a wonderful day,

Suzana Popovic-Montag