You are the only person responsible for your property.
That’s right. You are the person in charge of your bank accounts, investments, real estate, loans, credit cards, pension entitlements, corporate shares, brokerage account, overseas interests, purchases, transactions, Florida condo, government benefits, tax obligations, trailer ownership and any unwritten “deals” you’ve made. How you own it, whose name is on it, where it is, what was said, what’s the understanding, what’s it for, what you’re doing with it, where to get help with it, it all falls on your shoulders. It’s you. It’s always been you.
Early in 2023, the media unfortunately sensationalized a story of how Toronto homeowners came home to discover that their house had been sold while they were on vacation and new “owners” were occupying the home. This story involved many layers of professionals who were not doing their jobs, and a general prevalence in society to value quick money over process and natural human curiosity. It’s an extreme example of what can go wrong with things we own.
Unfortunately, the average property owner will dismiss this story as an extreme case, believing “This couldn’t happen to me”. While it’s highly unlikely that this will happen to you, it’s unfortunate because it obscures the much more common, mundane, and everyday circumstances that pose a much greater risk, and that we see on a regular basis, including:
Joint ownership: Someone on your account/ownership without your knowledge or without clear purpose or intention
Real Estate Title: Deceased people on ownership, legal description errors from the government’s title conversion project, joint ownership misunderstandings and registration
Corporate Records: What are those? I don’t need them, do I? But I file taxes? Read our article on Why you need Corporate Records here.
Documented Arrangements/Deals/Promises: No Will. No Notes. No terms. Nothing but sounds in ears. If you can’t read it, it doesn’t exist (legally or practically).
Oh, and there’s so much more! Named beneficiary confusion, uncommunicated contractual obligations (Separation Agreements, Shareholder Agreements, etc.), a house I bought in my sister’s name, working for a business you expect to purchase but the owner keeps pushing action until later. It’s all on you.
Know What’s Going On
We count on the things we own and our property rights to support our lives and the lives of our family and community. We rely on our assets to support our future at a time when we can no longer generate our own resources. Our property is a tool that we use to promote what is important to us about Life and Living. The truth is that no one else cares about your property – unless you’re giving it to them in some way – and it’s certainly not anyone else’s responsibility to make sure you know what’s going on, unless you are paying them to do so.
When things aren’t the way you thought they were and you run into a ‘snag’ or a ‘nightmare’ (or even worse, your loved ones experience this on your behalf) and you’re confronted with the uncomfortable, stressful and sometimes costly reality that you didn’t know the truth – it’s not someone else’s fault; not the government, not your deceased spouse, not your old lawyer, it’s just on you.
Do you feel like you’ve made assumptions about your assets? Do you rely on “Folk Wisdom” to guide how you currently structure your material life? Do you live with a nagging feeling that something’s not right and that you should do something about it? What does taking your life for granted look like?
It’s up to you. No one else. And it’s not hard to do something about it. It requires a simple (but not easy) habit of engaging with your material life. Invest half an hour every year to ask yourself questions and to consider where you may need help because you don’t have the answers. And keep doing it. Your material life doesn’t end until you do, so make it something you do.
Take nothing for granted and take responsibility for the things you own, because it matters.