I frequently have calls from a long-time clients with this question: should I add one of my children to the title of my house (cottage)? 

Generally, the suggestion for taking this step has come from well-meaning friends, a bank manager, or other financial advisor.

The intended purpose of adding a member of the family to the title of one’s home as a joint tenant (similar to a joint bank account) is to facilitate the transfer of the family home or cottage (or bank accounts) on death to simplify and speed up the process of transfer from the several months needed to probate a will to a few days or weeks, and at the same time, to reduce the court administration tax of 1.5% that is paid to the Court and the Ministry of Finance on applying for a Certificate of Appointment (commonly known as probate).

I still remember the client who first asked me this question many, many years ago. He was a retired businessman, a former entrepreneur, who had some business investments and owned his own home. He had just met with his bank manager who had suggested that he add his daughter to the title of his home and to his bank accounts to facilitate “transition” in the event that he should become ill or die.

After a few moments thought, I asked my client: are you prepared to give up control? Because, once you add someone to title, even if it is clear and documented that you are still the real (beneficial) owner, the reality is that you are no longer in sole control. 

My understanding of this possible outcome came from a previous experience in which an elderly client had added his daughter to some of his investments as a co-owner (on joint account) and his son to other investments, all done to “facilitate” the transfer of assets on his death. But, he lived longer than he had expected and when he later wanted to re-allocate his wealth, his son refused to cooperate.

So, I had come to the belief that adding a child (or anyone else) to the ownership of an asset may or may not be the right thing to do, or it may be a timing issue and at some later date may be appropriate.

On a related matter, it is a common assumption that adding someone to the title of your home (or cottage) as a joint tenant (joint owner) will eliminate the court administration tax on that particular asset. In other words, by “removing” that asset from administration under your will, you can avoid the tax of 1.5% on the value of that asset at the date of death. This is a common assumption (even by some lawyers). However, this is not always the case (this may be the subject of a future blog).

Learn more by emailing or calling Allan Kaplan |   | Tel: 416-969-1800  

ALLAN I. KAPLAN is a solicitor in a long-established practice in the Yonge-Bloor area (Kaplan & Associates, formerly Kaplan Freeman). With a general practice of over 50 years, he has handled real estate, corporate and business matters, as well as wills and estates. Currently, his practice is restricted to wills, powers of attorney and estates probate and administration.

The opinions expressed are my personal views; they flow from experience gleaned over many years and try to incorporate practical advice and not, strictly, legal advice. These issues can be complicated by personal experiences, family dynamics, cultural and religious issues and personal biases. Decisions and outcomes will vary from person to person, family to family and from time to time. Views and opinions may change over time and one cannot, and should not, try to predict how the future will unfold. You should make your decision as best you can looking at things from today’s perspective. But above all, you should always seek independent legal advice.

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