While parents are automatically their child’s guardian of the person (meaning they decide where the child lives, attends school, what clothes they wear etc.), a parent is not automatically guardian of a child’s property in Ontario. This often comes as a surprise when a child is entitled to receive funds, but his or her parents cannot accept the money on their behalf. Common situations where this issue arises is when a child is entitled to receive funds from an estate, a life insurance or pension plan, or settlement funds through a Court Order and appropriate trust terms have not been put in place.
If a child does not have a guardian of property, the funds are paid into court to the Accountant of the Superior Court of Justice either until a guardian of property is appointed or the child turns 18. The Children’s Law Reform Act (“CLRA”) sets out the process for someone to be appointed as guardian of the property of a minor in Ontario by making an application to court. The Office of the Children’s Lawyer also has a process under the Minors’ Funds Program for parents to apply for some funds to be paid out for the direct benefit of the child. For more general information about guardianship of minor children, see the Office of the Children’s Lawyer’s website.
The role of a guardian of property of a minor is an important one and comes with sometimes onerous duties and obligations. These include, but are not limited to, keeping detailed records of all transactions carried out on behalf of the child, prudent investing of the funds, acting in accordance with a management plan, and keeping information about the child’s property confidential. Anyone acting in this role may seek legal and accounting advice regarding their duties and obligations.
Our lawyers have extensive experience advising on management of a minor child’s property, including applications to court for an appointment of a minor’s guardian of property. If you have any questions about guardianship of the property of a minor, our team would be pleased to assist you.