Death and The Family Summer Home

This topic is near and dear to me, tugging at my heartstrings when I think about it. 

This is a very personal story I am sharing with you.

My family owned, loved, and cared for a wonderful shingle covered and much weathered summer cottage.  It is located on an island and is a place where I spent my summers growing up, molding into, and eventually becoming the person I am today.

This home was my summer haven for over forty years. 

My parents bought it completely furnished when I was about six years old and owned it right up until the fall following my mother's sudden death in 2006.

We were welcomed there; greeted with open arms, as children, teenagers, young adults, and as a growing family complete with kids, bikes, boogie boards, dogs and sandy feet.  My mom absolutely loved being in "her" summer home and her love for this little slice of heaven was infectious to us all.

Then Mom died suddenly.

Now it wasn't as if our family had never openly discussed what our parents wishes and intentions were in terms of passing along the family summer home to the next generation, but the abruptness of her death in the month of May, shortly before her usual trek to her beloved summer home, left us all reeling with many unanswered questions about what to do and when.

Boo loved it there too.  But Boo was still working at age 75 when Nonnie died. He had endured his "not so convenient" trek to the summer home every other weekend for many, many years, as well as having spent a week or two of vacation time at the beginning and end of Nonnie's chunk of time away. 

And thus the conversations began in earnest:

  • Did we (my husband and I) want to own another home?
  • Did my brother want to own a second home?
  • Did us siblings want to share the home with each other and our families?
  • What did Boo want?
  • What made the most sense? 

You can imagine the emotional upheaval contemplating saying a final "goodbye" to a home filled to the brim with countless memories; years of intimate conversations around the dining table, complete with family gatherings at the beach of several generations of cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles housed nearby.

Yet the emotions of hanging on to something so near and dear to us needed to take a back seat to the financial realities of the costs associated with owning a summer home and the reduce use of that home. 

Neither Boo, nor my brother or I, had any intention of occupying the summer home for more than a week or two because of our busy work and family lives. More importantly, the costs of upkeep outweighed the emotional attachments and it became clear what direction we were headed.

This was a place that nutured the amazing bond I had with my mother.  We were lucky. We loved being together in close quarters, sharing space, ideas, opinions, lots of laughs and parental love and guidance as I matured and eventually had my own family.

After spending one final summer in 2006 occupying our wonderful family summer home, filled with my mother's style, stuff, and memories, we let go.

Looking back, it was the right decision at the right time.  We all still gather as a family on this island with the ease of renting a home for a short time-freely shutting the cottage door after our visit and walking away from the stress and costs associated with owning a second home.

If you decide you want to go ahead and leave your summer home, or any home for that matter, to your loved ones upon your death, here's an article outlining some information that might be useful to you.

If you or your parents own a family summer home with several generations all tangled up in their emotional attachments associated with it, I highly recommend you start having these discussions sooner rather than later.

While this may seem difficult at first, by having the conversations from time to time you will be at peace with your decision in the end and you will reduce the stress and burden that could occur with no plan in place.