For Myself/Spouse

Estate Planning for the Family Cottage and Other Up North Properties

Where exactly is Up North? We hear this regularly, referring to a particular location in our state.

If you have ever lived in Wisconsin, you have definitely been to someone's Up North, and, if you have been here long enough, you probably have one of your own. You go there to engage in your favorite past times: relax, spend time with family & friends, swim, hike, hunt, fish, grow trees, appreciate nature, find peace and quiet, and have a place that brings your loved ones together and continues to connect them.

Many Wisconsin residents own property relevant to their interests and preferred methods of relaxation, and we at Hooper Law Office have learned how vital it can be to the success of a plan that this property is appropriately incorporated.

Over time, property that has connected people and become the place for important events and memories becomes more important to an ongoing legacy. This means that it may need specific provisions to represent the future of it in comprehensive Estate Planning.

Up North Property can take many different forms and serve a variety of purposes. It may be a cottage on the lake where fishing, swimming, and boating are part of every summer. It could be a cabin in the woods where hiking, hammocks, and late-night bonfires continue until the snow begins to fall. Perhaps you and your brother went in together on a piece of prime hunting land where your kids and grandkids learned the importance of safety, responsibility, and camouflage. It may be the remnants of the original family farm that continues to connect the generations by hosting corn roasts and family reunions, despite the outhouse and lack of running water.

Whatever your Up North property does for you, there may come a time that the future of this property becomes more important to preserve.

Important Points to Consider

If you are trying to maintain the property as a legacy for your family, it becomes important to account for it specifically in your Estate Plan. You should begin by asking questions and taking the time to identify the viability of your intentions. Consider:

  • Who do you want to include or exclude?
  • What discussions have you had with them?
  • What is the financial responsibility?
  • Can all involved afford to be a part?
  • Are you expecting to provide financial support yourself?
  • How does it change in the future?
  • How have you provided your decisions to your loved ones?
  • How do you protect the property from your own liabilities and the liabilities of each other as time moves forward?

The answers will help shape the plan that will work for you and your loved ones.

Protecting the Family Cottage from Nursing Home Costs

The costs of Long-Term Care or Nursing Home costs can also impact the future of your family cottage or other Up North property. In many instances, the property can be considered an asset that can be eaten up by nursing home costs, just like money in the bank. There is no protection for this unless you create the protection yourself. 

The family cabin or hunting law are subject to the Long-Term Care costs of all owners' and that of their spouse's. 

More options for protecting this cherished property are available to those who act proactively. 

Tools for Protecting Up North Properties

Once you have an understanding of the direction you see the ownership of the property taking in the years to come, we can start discussing the tools available and which tool will work best for you at this time. The most common tools include the following:

Document Definition Commonly Used For
Deed Document demonstrating ownership of Property
  • Non-Probate Property Transfers
  • Restrictions on ownership of Property
Partnership Written agreement among two or more parties to abide by certain rules and processes with regard to co-owning a business or property
  • Owning property with another party with written directions and restrictions as agreed to between them and instructions on selling interest and to whom if needed
Limited Liability Company Written agreement on ownership and management of an entity which may be used to own property. The entity limits the liability on creditors to the assets of the LLC only.
  • Managing property in a way that protects the owner's other assets from creditors and liabilities of the LLC
  • Written agreement that manages the rules and restrictions on the use and transfer of the LLC shares and the LLC property among owners.
Trust Written agreement on how property owned by the trust is to be managed and who receives in at death.
  • Non-probate transfers of property with a plan for the beneficiaries
  • Protecting the property from the liabilities of the owners and/or protecting the property from the potential creditors and predators of beneficiaries

Which of the tools will work best for your situation or alternative options of less common tools available for special circumstances is best addressed by an experienced Estate Planning Attorney.

Just like the other tools and documents that comprise your plan, the correct tool for ownership of property and passing it on to your heirs should be customized to fit your circumstances and the people you want to include. Passing property as a legacy down to the next generation has a much better chance of being a bridge that keeps the expanding branches of your family tree connected if you take the time to plan for it appropriately.

Property passed without a plan tends to create disagreements on who should or should not be allowed to be a part of it, how to allow people to exit without leaving hard feelings, who is financially responsible for maintenance or improvements, and limitations on use and benefits of the property.

Every generation that it passes to without a plan makes it increasingly difficult to institute one based on the agreement of those involved. The best way to pass property and have it become a positive legacy among your loved ones is to have a plan that takes into account their circumstances and yours. The attorneys at Hooper Law Office are experienced at walking clients through the tools available and which will work best for you.

Learn How to Incorporate Up North Planning into Your Comprehensive Estate Plan.

Attend Our Complimentary Educational Event.