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Do parents have the right to make decisions about their children’s property?

Parents often have the mistaken assumption that if the child owns property, independent of the parents, then they are the ones who have automatic decision-making ability over the property until the child reaches the age of majority. In many provinces, this isn’t true.

In all provinces or territories the parents have the right to make decisions about their child’s healthcare, education and social activities, but usually not when it comes to children’s property or inheritance – unless it is a minor amount.

This situation often arises where the child has gotten an inheritance from a grandparent, or other family member and can also occur where one of the parents has passed away and has left property to his or her minor child.

Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia has the Guardianship Act, which in s. 17 defines who will manage the child’s property and finances.

If the amount of the property or money is under $10,000 and as long as only $2000 is received within a one-year period, then the property or monies can be delivered to either:

  • The child itself, but only if the child has an obligation by law to support someone else;
  • Whichever parent the child actually lives with;
  • The person who has legal custody of the child; or
  • The guardian of the child.

However, if the property or monies is worth more than $10,000, then the parent would have to apply to the court in order to be guardian of the estate for the child.

If the court thinks that it’s in the best interests of the child to appoint someone else, then the court will do so.

Ontario

Like in Nova Scotia, if the amount the child inherits is under $10,000, it can be paid out in the same way.

However, when a child inherits over $10,000 in property or money, the court may get involved. If the parent gets a court order appointing themselves the guardian for the children’s property, then he or she may manage the child’s property. If a will appoints a parent as a guardian of property, then this appointment is also valid.

As noted before a parent doesn’t get the automatic right to make decisions over their child’s property. There is a difference between getting custody of a child and becoming the guardian of property for the child.

If the court feels it is appropriate to appoint a guardian on its own initiative, or there is no guardian of property for the child, the court will appoint one.

According to the Children’s Law Reform Act of Ontario, either or both parents may be named guardian of property for the child.

Parents will be held legally accountable by the courts for the mismanagement of their children’s property.

As every province and territory is different when it comes to guardianship law, it’s often recommended to consult with a lawyer when children inherit or receive property or money and you are not sure who has to manage it.

Read More:

Frequently Asked Questions About Children’s Trust Services Nova Scotia

Guardianship of Property of Minor Children