Cabin Trusts: Permanency for the Family Getaway  

A hallmark of Wisconsin summers is the family cabin up north. When autumn comes, the changing leaves provide beautiful backdrops and hunters descend on the woods. Many owners want their cabins to remain family getaways long after their passing. Unfortunately, merely leaving a cabin to multiple family members in your will can lead to hostility within the family regarding use rights and the costs and responsibilities of upkeep for the cabin. When the time comes to pass the cabin to the next generation, there are several creative options available to owners; first and foremost is the Cabin Trust.

What is a Cabin Trust?

A trust is a way to hold certain property for the benefit of named beneficiaries. Under a trust arrangement, a trustee (generally an individual) holds and maintains the property. In a Cabin Trust, the trustee will maintain the cabin and land for the benefit of the next generation or generations. The trustee does not have to be a stranger outside the family; the role can be served by one or more of the members of the next generation.

Four Main Advantages of a Cabin Trust

There are several major benefits provided by the Cabin Trust:

1. Predetermined Structure Minimizes Family Squabbling

First, the owner can provide structure and expectations regarding the cabin’s use after his or her passing. After the owner passes, there may no longer be an established procedure for shared use of the cabin. The Cabin Trust can provide structure for use of the owner’s cabin without relying on the next generation to work together to create the structure. The trustee ensures that the procedure is followed after the owner’s passing.

2. Establishes Clear Roles & Responsibilities

The second major benefit is to determine how upkeep and expenses are paid. Taxes and insurance must be paid, roofs replaced, and gas tanks filled. Some owners are fortunate enough to set aside assets to fund such expenses after their passing. More commonly the burden will fall to the next generation to make ends meet. The Cabin Trust establishes detailed methods for contribution and payment of expenses in an equitable manner for the next generation. The Cabin Trust will also provide avenues for a member of the next generation to disassociate him or herself from the cabin and for the other members to address a member not meeting his or her responsibilities.

3. Plans for Unexpected Events

The third major benefit is to provide structure for unexpected circumstances in the future. No one has a crystal ball, not even estate planners. Nevertheless, the Cabin Trust can include provisions for how to address unforeseen circumstances in the future that may impact the longevity of the cabin. If such circumstances arise and the sale of the cabin is necessary, the Cabin Trust provides for the sale procedures and can help avoid disputes and lawsuits between beneficiaries.

 4. Provisions Extend Past the Next Generation

The fourth major benefit is to provide for future generations. Generally, an owner wants to provide not only for the next generation, but for the generations to come. The Cabin Trust is the only way to best ensure the cabin can be enjoyed by the family for decades. While a Cabin Trust cannot envision every circumstance or challenge, the chances to keep a cabin in the family increase with the use of a Cabin Trust. It is common for a Cabin Trust to anticipate and provide for multiple generations.

We Can Help

Like other trusts, every Cabin Trust is unique. Since many factors have a direct impact on the provisions of a Cabin Trust, there is no “one-size-fits-all” option. If you have a cabin, cottage, or hunting land and would like to further explore the benefits of a Cabin Trust, or discuss estate planning in general, please contact Attorney Matt Ackmann at 414-271-8650 or

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