Would placing a vacation home in a trust preserve family harmony?

You’ve been fortunate enough to finally be able to make that Lake Tahoe vacation home you’ve owned for decades your primary residence in retirement. Your children have never tired of spending their vacations there and continue to do so now that they’re grown. 

Now that you’re getting serious about your estate planning, you’re contemplating the best strategy for leaving it to all of your kids to enjoy with their families in the years to come. Leaving property to multiple beneficiaries can cause conflicts, however, even among the closest of siblings.

One option that can keep the home in the family and minimize tensions is to place the home in a trust. Legally, the trust owns the home and your children (or whatever family members you choose) are the beneficiaries.

Choosing the right trustee

You’ll need to choose a trustee whom you can designate to make all decisions regarding the property based on the provisions you detail. That person needs to have the time, expertise and patience to do that. They also need to be able to stand up to the beneficiaries and sometimes referee their disputes.

This kind of trust requires some money. You’ll need to compensate the trustee. You may also want to leave money for maintenance, taxes, insurance, utilities and other costs. You may want to stipulate that the home can be rented out, which would help cover some of those expenses. However, it also means it wouldn’t always be available for your family.

A trust like this can be as detailed as you choose – down to how much time each beneficiary can spend in the home. You may also want to include a provision stating that if all beneficiaries agree, the home can be sold.

Review your options before you decide

This is just one option for including a property in your estate plan when there are multiple beneficiaries who have at least a sentimental stake in it. However, it’s one that can help you keep a beloved home in your family long after you’re gone. 

Your estate planning attorney can discuss your options with you and help ensure that your trust and other documents reflect your wishes and goals for your assets and your family.