My parents are aging. I heard that putting assets into joint ownership will make things simpler when they pass on. Is that true?
We are often asked if elderly parents should put their money into joint bank accounts with their adult children or transfer their real estate into a joint tenancy with one or more of their adult children. This may be done for convenience to allow the adult child to assist the parent in managing their assets while they are alive. It may also be done to avoid delays and probate fees when the parent dies, on the thought that the asset will pass automatically to the surviving child and will not form part of the deceased parent’s estate.
Be careful, simplifying may actually be complicating.
The Supreme Court of Canada has said that when adult children hold joint assets with an aging parent there is a legal presumption that those joint assets do NOT belong to the adult child on death of the parent, but instead belong to the deceased parent's estate unless there is evidence to the contrary. As such there is danger in assuming that assets held jointly pass to the surviving joint owning adult children unless proper estate planning has occurred. Like all presumptions, this legal rule can be deliberately rebutted and that is best achieved through proper estate planning. In the absence of such planning, attempting to simplify may actually be complicating matters.