Youth FAQs – Financial and Legal

How old do I have to be to open a bank account?

Under Canadian law, you can open a bank account at any age, even if you don’t have a job or have money to put in the account right away. Usually banks require that a bank account for a child be put in joint names between the child and the parent, so you will have to check with individual banks about their account policies.

You must provide valid identification.

For more information about the identification that is required, as well as other rules and regulations about bank accounts, see: Financial Consumer Agency of Canada > Opening an Account: Your Rights and Responsibilities from the list of links below.

Last Reviewed: November 2010

How old do I have to be to open an RRSP?

You can open an RRSP as soon as you have qualifying earned income and can therefore pay income tax. Even a child who has earned income can open an RRSP.

Last Reviewed: November 2010

How old do I have to be to open a tax-free savings account (TFSA)?

You must be at least 18 years old. You also must have a social insurance number.

For more information, see: Canada Revenue Agency > Who can open a TFSA from the list of links below.

Last Reviewed: November 2010

How old do I have to be to enter into a contract?

Contracts are agreements between you and another person to give each other something. For example, if you enter into a contract to rent an apartment with a landlord, you are agreeing to pay rent and the landlord is agreeing that you can live in the apartment. A contract is an agreement that the law will enforce. A contract does not have to be in writing to be enforceable (but verbal contracts are often more difficult to enforce, as they are more difficult to prove).

When you are 18 or older, you may contract with others.

If you are under 18, you may also be able to contract with others, but you are generally limited to:

  • contracts that may benefit you; and
  • contracts for the necessities of life. This usually includes things such as food, shelter, education and medical services, but can also include other things, depending on the circumstances.

If you are under 18 and you do enter into a contract for something other than these two items, you may have the option of cancelling the contract, either immediately or when you turn 18. The ability to cancel gives minors some protection against making a reckless decision. But the law balances this special protection for minors against legitimate business interests of people or companies that a minor may contract with. So as a result, if you do enter into a contract that is not beneficial to you and that is not for necessaries of life, the court may find you to be bound to the contract or you may still experience negative consequences of the contract.

Also, age is not the only issue when deciding whether you can contract (for example, there is also the issue of capacity).

Last Reviewed: November 2010

At what age can I get welfare?

It depends.

The word “welfare” is a term commonly used to refer to social financial assistance. This is the system that provides money to individuals who have exhausted all other means of financial support.

In Canada, there are actually 13 different systems of social assistance – one for each province or territory. Administrative rules (such as eligibility and rates of assistance) are different in every program. In Alberta, welfare is currently known as the “Income Support” program (IS).

In general, the Alberta program requires that recipients be aged 18 or over.

There are, however, certain very limited situations in which a 16 or 17 year old can receive welfare. For the most part, income support for 16 or 17 year olds who need to live independently is obtained through Child and Youth Services. If you are under 16 years old, you do not qualify for Income Supports. Contact Child and Youth Services instead.

For more information, see the following links from the list below:

  • Alberta Employment and Immigration > Income Support
  • Alberta Employment and Immigration > Income Support Program > Special groups – 16 and 17 Year Olds Not on Parent’s File
  • Alberta Human Services, Children and Youth – Local Offices (Regarding Custody Agreement for Youth or Enhancement Agreement for Youth)

Last Reviewed: November 2010

At what age can I get employment insurance (EI)?

Employment Insurance is a fund that you must pay into if you are working. This program is to help people who are laid off or working seasonally.

There is no specific age to qualify. In order to obtain EI, you must have had a job, paid into EI, and otherwise met all of the other EI criteria (which includes a minimum amount of time worked).

For more information, see: Service Canada > Employment Insurance from the links below.

Last Reviewed: November 2010

How old do I have to be to get a credit card?

To get a credit card on your own, you must have reached the age of majority in your province or territory of residence. In Alberta, that is 18.

Generally, if you are under 18, you will have to get a parent or guardian to co-sign for a credit card. A credit card is a form of contract, so if you don’t pay the loan back, the person who co-signed will be responsible for repayment.

For more information, visit the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada’s website from the links listed below.

Last Reviewed: November 2010

How old do I have to be to purchase something over the internet?

Buying and selling property, even over the internet, requires a contract. Therefore, you generally have to be age of majority, as minors usually can only enter into restricted kinds of contract.

For example, if you want to open an account with ebay.ca, you need to be 18 years of age. For more information, go to the E-Bay Registration page from the links listed below.

Last Reviewed: November 2010

How old do I have to be to rent a vehicle?

Most major vehicle rental companies require renters to be a minimum of either 21 or 25 years of age. Most major vehicle rental companies also require that the renter have a valid driver’s licence and a credit card with a minimum available balance in their own name. Some car rental companies do allow renters at the minimum age 18, but there is often an increase in the rates.

For the rules of a specific rental company, contact that company.

Last Reviewed: November 2010

How old do I have to be to rent a hotel room?

In general, you have to be the 18 to rent a hotel room. This is because:

  • for the most part, in order to rent a room you must have a valid credit card (even if you pay cash – in case there are any damages done); and
  • renting a room involves a form of rental contract, and minors usually can only enter into restricted kinds of contract.

Last Reviewed: November 2010

How old do I have to be to get a loan?

In general, you have to be the 18 to get a loan on your own. This is because minors can usually only enter into restricted kinds of contract. Banks and loan companies cannot sue you for money you owe them that are not necessities, so they are reluctant to lend you money.

Generally, if you are under 18, you will have to get a parent or guardian to co-sign for a loan. A loan is a contract, so if you don’t pay the loan back, the person who co-signed will be responsible for repayment.

Last Reviewed: November 2010

How old do I have to be to buy/sell property?

Buying and selling property of any kind requires a contract. Therefore, you generally have to be age of majority, as minors can usually only enter into restricted kinds of contract.

If you own land, your parents or your trustee(s) will usually have to take care of any transaction involving the land. Since it is still your property, if someone wants to sell your land, they will have to go to court and explain why the sale is necessary. You may also have to provide a formal agreement to the transaction.

Last Reviewed: November 2010

How old do I have to sue someone?

Generally, a person under the age of 18 can be sued or can sue someone else (Rules of Court, Rule 2.11). However, the Alberta Rules of Court (see link below)  states that if a person is under 18, and not a spouse or adult interdependent partner (Rule 12.6(1)), then they must be sued, or sue someone else, through a litigation representative.

A litigation representative is an adult person who speaks for you because you are still a minor. The various terms that can be used to describe such an adult are: “litigation representative,” “guardian”, “guardian ad litem” or “next friend”. For more information, please consult a lawyer.

Last Reviewed: November 2010

At what age can I be sued by someone?

Generally, a person under the age of 18 can be sued or can sue someone else (Rules of Court Rule 2.11). However, the Alberta Rules of Court (see link below) states that if a person is under 18, and not a spouse or adult interdependent partner (Rule 12.6(1)), then they must be sued, or sue someone else, through a litigation representative.

A litigation representative is an adult person who speaks for you because you are still a minor. The various terms that can be used to describe such an adult are: “litigation representative,” “guardian”, “guardian ad litem” or “next friend”. For more information, please consult a lawyer.

Last Reviewed: November 2010

How old do I have to be hire a lawyer?

Children and youth of all ages may be represented by a lawyer.

It is important to understand that when a lawyer represents a minor, the minor is their client, not the family or anyone else. The rule of privilege (a kind of professional secrecy) governs that relationship. In other words, if you are a minor and have a lawyer, neither you nor the lawyer have to tell your parents what is said between you (unless you are old enough to be capable of giving your permission for this, and you do so clearly). Generally, privileged information can be understood to be information about something that happened in the past and usually a lawyer cannot disclose this information to anyone without your permission.

In some cases, a lawyer may even be appointed for you by the province of Alberta. Specifically, children and youth receiving services under the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act or the Protection of Sexually Exploited Children Act, can have a lawyer appointed to them by the Child Youth advocate.

For more information, see: Office of the Child and Youth Advocate > Legal Representation for Children and Youth from the links listed below.

Last Reviewed: November 2010

How old do I have to be to write a Will?

In Alberta, any adult (age 18 or over) who is mentally capable can make a Will.

In addition, a person under the age of 18 can make a Will if s/he:

  • is a member of a part of the Canadian Forces that is a “regular force” under the National Defence Act;
  • is a member of the Canadian Forces on active service under the National Defence Act;
  • is a mariner or seaman; or
  • does not have a spouse or adult interdependent partner, but has a child (or children) – but the Will can be only to make a bequest (gift) to such a child/children.

Last Reviewed: November 2010

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