Yesterday, I attended the Trusts and Estates conference at the Ontario Bar Association’s 2007 Annual Institute of Continuing Legal Education. The conference was entitled, “Gone…But Not Forgotten.” Hull and Hull LLP’s Craig Vander Zee co-chaired the event, which featured lectures presented by leading practitioners in estate law.

As the title of the conference may suggest, topics included geriatric care, consent and capacity matters, guardianship issues, estate planning techniques, as well as developments in the law of trusts and trustee liability, solicitor’s negligence and charity law.

Two of the lecturers offered an interesting discussion on the various ways the family cottage may be transferred from parents to children and the estate planning implications of each technique.

One particularly interesting practice that was discussed is the use of a co-ownership agreement.

Essentially, a co-ownership agreement allows parents and children to amicably share the family cottage during the parents’ lifetimes, and also creates a structure for the future use of the cottage after the parents pass away. While co-ownership agreements are not without problems, if drafted correctly, they may address certain issues that typically arise with family cottages; namely, tax implications, the cost of repairs and maintenance,  who gets to use the cottage and most importantly, when. These issues and are often the subject of family battles and can result in litigation.

Whether a co-ownership agreement is appropriate depends on the circumstances of the estate in question. There are many other estate planning tools available for transferring the family cottage, which have their own advantages.

Thanks for reading.

Jason