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Modern Estate Planning Blog

Elder Law & Special Needs Planning

Ask a Fair Oaks Wills and Trusts Lawyer: What Do I Do With My Vacation Home?

January 17, 2012

Vacation homes can create some interesting estate planning situations, and wills and trusts lawyers in Sacramento are privy to quite a few of these circumstances. The vacation home may be very valuable, in terms of money, tradition, or both. Of course, where its value lies may be different for each heir.

Let’s say that a couple in California wants to leave their beloved vacation home to their children. They see this as an act of love, providing future generations the opportunity to gather there and continue on the traditions that were started while the couple was still living. It’s a beautiful, romantic, and idealized way to look at passing on the property.

Unfortunately, the generations that follow may have less interest or ability to keep and maintain the property than the original owners. Once the vacation property has been passed on, it is the heirs’ responsibility to maintain it, pay annual property taxes, etc. In many cases, the heirs may simply not be able to afford this.

And what about those heirs that live too far away to enjoy the vacation property regularly? Should they be held just as responsible for its upkeep as siblings and cousins who live nearby and are able to use it on a regular basis? What kind of alternative might be available for them?

Working with a wills and trusts lawyer can offer great insight into the options available…and there are options. For example, the original couple may choose to place the property into a trust, meaning that a trustee would manage the home, and that (as much as possible), maintenance, taxes, repairs, etc. would be paid for out of the trust. It may even be possible for some of the heirs to be “bought out” of their share by using funds from the trust.

Another advantage of placing the vacation property into a trust is that it can help if there are family tensions at play. The trustee can be someone outside of the family whose only interest really is to preserve the property and the trust in an appropriate manner. He or she may even determine that the property can be rented out to generate income if the trust is having trouble paying for maintenance.

It is possible that some members of the family will simply be uninterested in the vacation property. For this reason, the wills and trusts lawyer can set up an exit strategy that allows some heirs to purchase the shares of others, even using other assets from the estate. It’s also not unusual for the third or subsequent generations to not have the same emotional ties to it as earlier generations. In preparation for such an event, the trust can include an exit strategy that allows for the sale of the property with proceeds going to living heirs.

Vacation properties can be a little tricky when it comes to wills and trusts administration, so choosing an Sacramento lawyer who has expertise in dealing with this type of situation can make a big difference in ensuring that your wishes are clear.

Have questions about the best ways to pass your vacation home down to the next generation? Give our Fair Oaks estate planning law firm a call at (916) 241-9661 and ask to schedule a free Peace of Mind Planning Session ($750 value) with the mention of this article (limited to first 10 callers per month).

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I totally see the difference between your service and your typical legal estate planning service. The experience you mentioned where you get this big document you don’t understand and a trust that never gets funded was EXACTLY our first experience. It cost a small fortune too. Really - it is the difference between providing a legal document and providing an estate planning service.

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