Keeping the Family Cabin… in the Family

Spring is near and thoughts of lazy afternoons at the lake are starting to infiltrate my thoughts!

There really is nothing better than sitting at the end of the pier with a glass of wine watching the sun set at the end of a busy week. Growing up with a family cottage is a blessing. I think back on how much fun we had as a family spending time at the lake when I was a kid – hunting frogs, playing cards, learning to sail and wakeboard – but now when I think of the cabin I am not sure what the future holds.

With my parents looking at retirement and moving to a warmer climate and my siblings getting married and having families of their own, I’m afraid the cabin that I see as an oasis and sanctuary in a busy world is going to be a casualty of poor communication and unspoken expectations. My parents spend less and less time at the lake and the last couple of years have been really tough on their business. They are starting to see the cabin as a money pit requiring endless fixes and renovations. It has lost its luster over the years and it is now less of an asset to them and more of a hindrance.

My older brother has a successful film career in Vancouver and his wife’s family has ocean front property on one of the islands off the coast. He barely makes it back to town for major holidays much less to use the cabin… so the chances of him wanting to pitch into the family cabin’s upkeep are pretty slim! There is also my younger sister who loves the cabin as much as I do but she is married now, chasing around a toddler and expecting her second child shortly. And unfortunately, my brother-in-law is not the easiest person to get along with and doesn’t seem to see the value of having a shared vacation property.

So really… that only leaves me! While I want nothing more than to see the cabin stay in the family, having just started a new career and having just purchased my first home, there is no way I alone, can afford the bills that come with it. When I look around at my friends who also have family lake-properties, I realize that even though we may be at different stages in our lives, these questions are coming up soon for them too.

How can I get my family to see the rough waters ahead without looking like I’m fishing to find out which one of us will be getting the cabin in the will?

Contact ABFI at to order your copy of “Managing Shared Assets: Lessons from the Family Cabin” presented by Lloyd Steier, Gary Coskey, and Philip J. Renaud.

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