Can a minor own real estate?—and more estate questions
Thanks for writing in, Suniel. Leaving a gift to our minor-aged loved ones in our estate plans is a great way to provide for their futures. Let’s review what a minor-aged beneficiary is, who is responsible for the beneficiary, and how property can be gifted to them in a will or otherwise.
Technically speaking, what is a minor?
Depending on the province you are in, the age of majority is either 18 or 19 years of age. In Ontario, for example, a child is no longer considered a minor at 18 years old. When someone is under the age of majority in their province, they cannot enter into legal contracts, and a parent or guardian supports them until adulthood.
In Ontario, when a minor-aged child is named as a beneficiary in a will or set to inherit under the Succession Law Reform Act when there is no will, then the executor, the person in charge of administering the estate, has to complete a few steps. One of the duties of an executor is to notify the estate’s beneficiaries of their inheritance. For minor-aged beneficiaries, the executor also notifies the parent or guardian of the child and the Office of the Children’s Lawyer, which is an independent law office in the Ministry of the Attorney General.
Minors as beneficiaries
Since a minor cannot enter into legal contracts, a lawyer a lawyer represents the child’s interests in legal matters and in court. The lawyer assigned to the file reviews the administration of the estate while the child’s inherited assets are held “in trust” until they reach the age of majority.
Think of holding “in trust” as a deposit for the child. The executor keeps the gift on behalf of the child under the estate’s name until it can be transferred to them directly. For example, if it were money being held in a bank account, the name would be as follows: “Estate of Sara Smith, in trust for John Smith.”
This naming approach can be used for bank accounts, property and investment accounts. Naming the asset in this manner ensures that the item is identified as part of the estate while being held for a specific person.
How to gift property to a child
When writing a will or creating an estate plan, we look at what we want to leave and to whom. And we can get pretty creative, Suniel. Hiring professionals to assist you through the estate planning process can be beneficial. If you decide that you would like to leave your home to minor-aged children, specifically, then the home will be kept in trust for them until they turn the age of majority in the province where the property is situated and can take over the title of the house.
A few questions to discuss with your lawyer, when leaving a property to someone or multiple people, specifically minors, include: