By: Samantha J. Allen of Wells Family Law, Calgary and
Charlotte Marshall of Maxwell Realty, Invermere.

You have made the tough decision to separate. You are an Alberta resident and own a vacation property in the Columbia Valley. Its most likely that you and your spouse don’t want to continue to own the property together so now what?

Property division is a hot topic when it comes to divorce proceedings. Dividing real property can be stressful. What once was a retreat property for your family where children played, après ski was the norm and countless memories were made, is now causing more turmoil for you and your family than was ever intended.

Ideally, you and your partner would agree amicable on property and asset division. Everyone wants to keep the vacation home, but there is a lot to consider. There is huge sentimental value to the family, but the reality is owning a second home may be problematic. Vacation homes are usually valuable assets that require a lot of money and work to maintain. As time goes on maintenance and improvements are needed, and who contributes to that upkeep is a constant reminder of the burdens recreational properties can have. The only option may be to sell the recreational property, in order to provide two primary residences for the separating families.

In Alberta, the Family Property Act (FPA) applies to spouses or Adult Interdependent Partners (AIP) who separated on or after January 1, 2020. If you were married and separated before January 1, 2020, the old Matrimonial Property Act is your go to legislation. And if you were in an AIP and separated before January 1, 2020, the law of unjust enrichment may apply to you.

An important aspect for all of you Albertan ‘mountain vacationers’, is for the property to be considered a matrimonial home under the FPA, it has to be located in Alberta. But many of us have vacation homes out of province, so what now? For Albertans a popular destination for a second home is our neighbor, British Columbia. The FPA allows the court to consider property outside of Alberta, and though they cannot decide what happens to that property, for equalization purposes they can take it into account when dividing assets in Alberta. These “out-of-province” assets are very important, and you will want to know its value.

If COVID has taught us anything, separation, divorces, and the need for a quiet getaway vacation home (not always related!) are becoming more of a reality. People are flocking out of the city and heading to a more peaceful way of life; it’s all about that work life balance after all.

I chatted with a Invermere realtor Charlotte Marshall about what she is seeing for Albertans who own recreational properties in the Columbia Valley,

“A lot of Calgarians choose the Columbia Valley/Panorama because of the proximity to Calgary, with approximately 70% of the population from outside of the area. The pandemic has had a profound effect on the value of properties, and we are seeing a higher than usual turnover of secondary properties. Average house prices in the Columbia Valley are up 21% from a year ago.”

Separated or getting a divorce? Here are some things to consider:

  1. First how did you acquire the vacation property?
    1. Was the property acquired during your relationship?
    2. Was the property transferred to either party during the marriage as an inheritance or gift from a third party?
    3. Was it owned before the marriage and brought into the relationship?
    4. Is the Vacation property owned by a corporation or part of a trust agreement?
  2. What are the possible tax consequences of selling a secondary property in another province?
  3. What are the annual costs of operating the property?
  4. How do we determine the value of the property?

The answers to these questions are key and can determine how much of the vacation property can be divided.
If you are separating and an Alberta Resident who owns a vacation property in the Columbia Valley, please contact a lawyer at Wells Family Law at either or by phone at 587-356-4342. about your rights when it comes to asset division and recreational property. If you are looking to sell, buy or find out the current market value of your vacation property in the Columbia Valley, contact Charlotte Marshall at Maxwell Realty either by phone at (250) 899 9912 or by email at: