Over the past few years people have speculated and looked for "reasons" or that one incident that turned one owner toward the courts for resolution. I don't think there was ever any one incident, or point when that course of action became the breaking point. Instead, it was more like a series of events and the right (or wrong) mix of personalities that eventually went south.
The mix of generations as owners was difficult for certain parties to "deal" with. Not terribly uncommon, nor was it any reason to take the action that was chosen. It could have worked. Everything could have worked out if all parties wanted it to work. Over the years, the group of owners would occassionally meet to discuss various needs, projects, etc. in maintaining the cottage. These meetings, for the most part were not usually productive. For some reason, there was a "majority rule" sense of how things should be managed. Majority rule doesn't work and it doesn't have any legal standing as far as estate law. When three owners can't all agree, nothing happens. That was status quo for many many years.
From Saving the Family Cottage, the author Stuart J. Hollander, Esq. outlines a number of "truths" and facts of estate law. "Heirs who co-own the cottage have a say in its operation and maintenance, but (to the susprise of many of my clients) co-ownership does not mean majority rule. A co-owner doesn't need anyone's permission to make a change to the cottage as long as those changes would not be viewed by a court as destructive or damaging.
Real estate law does not establish a standard of maintenance for the cottage, so if the heirs cannot agree upon the way a cottage is to be kept, its condition either drops to the lowest common denominator of care or the heir with the higher standard personally pays for the extra care."
I would hazard a guess here that we fell into the first category...dropping to the lowest common denominator of care.
A number of years ago, actually the last meeting of the "owners" was held and it seemed at the time that it was a great step in the right direction to setting mutually agreed priorities, creating a list of "improvement projects" and prioritizing these items. Everyone left feeling satisfied that finally everyone seemed to be on the same page. Ha.
The "list" was found on the counter in the pink bathroom after having been ignored, tossed aside and new dock sections were made and put in. That wasn't on the list. The floor in the pink bathroom was falling in, but someone else decided they wanted a longer dock. Who paid for these dock sections, the owners.
So.... my dad died. Is it coincidental that this whole mess started shortly after? Don't think so.
Katy and I were at the cottage that spring. The front door was down to the wood with peeling paint everywhere. The weather was not conducive to a day on the dock so we went to the hardware store, bought some paint and proceeded to scrape, prime and paint the front door. So what if we chose red. It's a nice color, it is welcoming and the place needed a bit of brightening up. Oddly, Katy's brother Stu and his wife had come up that weekend and it was discussed with them and we all thought red was a good choice. Apparently one owner doesn't like red. He saw red. Oh boy did he go off. I mean, GO OFF. On everyone. I thought he was going to have a stroke right there on the spot. HE decided that the door MUST be green and promptly made arrangements for it to be repainted immediately after we left. (I'm not sure who paid for that..probably came out of the joint account but who would know since the accounting for that account..well.. there isn't any accounting for that.)
Was the Red Door a turning point? Don't think so. Just another incident in a long line of little differences of opinion. "Playing well with others?"...well, I think we know who has difficulties with that one.
So, the next shoe dropped in the form of an e-mail to my mother. I'll let my brother take the next round on "what happened behind the Red Door".