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The sentimental value of a cabin makes estate planning complicated

From a financial perspective, estate planning with a cabin may seem no different than with your family home. You can leave it to all of your children, allowing them to take on the responsibilities and costs, or you can sell the cabin and leave the money you make in the sale. These are the most common solutions for any type of real estate, and your cabin is just another real estate asset that you own. 

What makes a cabin more complicated is the sentimental value. One cabin expert — an architect who designs cabins and writes books about the process — said that they were essentially “places of human bonding.” In many other buildings, privacy and separate space are most important. In cabins, the most important thing is intimacy. It’s a place for people to come together, get to know one another and make memories.

For adult children, this means that a family cabin may hold some of their best memories of growing up. Maybe you only took them to the cabin once a month during the year, but many of their memories of summers on the lake or Christmases in the forest are connected to that cabin. They almost think of it as a fundamental part of their childhood experience. 

What this means is that selling the cabin and splitting the money may not work. The children may want to keep the building, no matter its value. However, that means your estate plan gets complex when multiple children — or even generations — are involved. You have to know what steps to take to keep this heirloom in the family.