13 Aug Your Vacation Home: A lasting legacy?
Maine is a day trip or less from cities and towns north of Philadelphia and east of Buffalo. For thousands and thousands of families who ski, sail, tour or simply dwell through the four seasons, buying or passing along a second home in Maine is rich with possibilities. Here’s a reflection of our own experience and some advice to ponder.
In 1918, it was a long and bumpy trip on the road from Jamaica Plain in Boston to Perkins Cove in Ogunquit, Maine. That’s when my grandparents bought a lovely shingled cottage perched atop a ledge on Shore Road overlooking one of Maine’s most scenic fishing villages. It was the beginning of a legacy that covered three generations and stoked family memories full of images, aromas, stories and adventure — a legacy thousands of seasonal property owners can preserve for even longer with financial foresight.
Back then, the cove was little more than a tidal river with fishing dories scattered in the marsh grass and artists painting the rustic bait shacks and crashing surf on the ocean side of the peninsula.
For my grandparents, this was the beginning of fifty years making the trek north to be restored by salt air, the throaty chug of lobster boats, and the gathering of extended family and friends. Our family albums are full of Ogunquit’s scenic evolution; new hotels, dredging of the cove, the iconic footbridge and the ever-changing fashion of summer outfits. Among the constants, however, have been the aroma of an artist’s oil paints, aging bait and seaweed, and the call of hungry gulls circling the wharves.
When our aunt and mom married, my grandparents gave each of them two weeks of family vacation every summer. For us grandchildren, those two weeks were full of ceaseless adventures. We kept two boats, a skiff with a green old 5 ½ hp Johnson outboard, the other, a white plywood rowboat trimmed in red. One summer, I transformed the rowboat into a gallant sloop fitted with a purloined bed sheet tacked to a flimsy mast of pine and nailed tentatively to one of the seats. With only an oar to steer, I was whisked by a steady breeze right under the cove’s historic footbridge. I leveled a swift kick to the mast and paddled like hell with my one oar to save myself from a certain trans-Atlantic journey.
Our dad taught us to fish by baiting our handlines with clam bellies and learning the patience of waiting for the tug. Our grandfather showed us how to whittle tiny boats and wooden creatures. We also honed our lifelong talent of competitive rock skipping during idle hours at our house at the back of the cove.
That cottage was a legacy that defined our summers in Maine.
Maine has the highest concentration of seasonal homes per capita in the nation and with good reason. Receding glaciers created several thousand lakes and ponds and more than 3,500 miles of coastline; unending necks of land from Kittery to Calais as well as a vast collection of islands known globally for scenic cruising by power or sail.
So, how do you ensure that this great tradition of having a seasonal home in Maine gets passed along to successive generations? How can you ensure that your children, grandchildren and generations to come can hike the trails you trekked and explore the coves you navigated?
One route is to establish a trust to fund the legacy you want to leave behind. With the aid of an attorney, you can establish a legal entity that future generations can administer; a limited liability corporation (LLC) or a trust that owns the property and is adequately funded to pay some or all of the expenses associated with property taxes and maintenance.
If you do not have the means to fund such an entity now, you can work with an insurance agent to buy a life insurance policy that will serve as the capital for future costs after you die. Depending on your objectives, you may wish to simply retire the mortgage or attempt to fund in perpetuity the costs of keeping the property in the family.
Making this decision has both up and down sides. The upside is that your heirs will have access to the joys of your summer home at an affordable cost. Though you have no way of knowing if their financial circumstances will be sufficient to have a summer home, your decision to fund its operating costs will be a lasting legacy in your family.
The challenge, however, is that as the “limbs and branches” of your family tree continue to grow, descendants may be too many in number to have equitable access to the property. They also may not find the property to be of interest. For those reasons, whatever document or legal entity is established you should have clear rules of governance and decision making. The last thing you would want as your legacy would be to sow seeds of conflict.
And, as with any sound binding agreement, you should make provisions for dissolving the legal entity and disbursing the assets that remain. You may wish to provide that the proceeds be gifted to remaining family members or consider donating the money to a preservation group that reflects the value you place on Maine’s historic and scenic character.
Whatever your choice, be clear and intentional and relish the legacy you’ll leave for your family.
For more information about funding a legacy for generations to come, contact Kerry Peabody or Marty Duggan here at Clark Insurance.