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About that lakeshore cabin: Should we keep it in the family?

Perhaps your family members have been the proud and happy possessors of a cabin or similar property somewhere off in the wilds of California (or at least beyond echo's reach of all the siblings' urban-based dwellings) for decades.

And perhaps you simply love that building and surrounding land, because it has bequeathed you with a stockpile of rich and lasting memories, with the promise of yet more blessings to come.

Maybe the same emotion guides your sister and parents. As for a brother or other sibling, maybe not so much. Perhaps some of the grandkids, now adults, cherish the property, while others could hardly care less about it.

Those collectively mixed feelings are about par for the course for legions of families across California and the rest of the country who are long-tenured owners of cabins or similar recreational properties. Some family members just about cry with joy every time they think of their next trip to the rustic venue they have been periodically visiting all their lives, while others, well, yawn and would rather just stay home and channel surf new television shows.

One thing is fairly certain regarding long-held family vacation properties, regardless of any lack of unanimity regarding the enthusiasm with which they are perceived by all family members.

And that is this: They will assuredly demand to be placed under a spotlight and accounted for in a family's estate planning because, one way or the other, they are likely to be valuable.

That value can be legacy-related, with richness being tied to priceless memories of growing up and promises of what is yet to come for future generations.

Or it might simply relate to the cash value that some family members believe attaches to the property.

So-called "cabin succession planning" might be a seamless and simple process in cases where all family members strongly agree that maintaining a family vacation home is flatly important.

In other instances, though, things might not go nearly so smoothly, with family disputes arising. One recent article discussing estate planning relevant to cabins and similar holdings notes that some families will bicker and that "there is no point in trying to fit a square peg into a round hole."

What often will make sense is a timely and comprehensive family discussion with a proven estate planning attorney. Knowledge will be key regarding any succession decision, and experienced legal counsel can provide it.

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