PR 07215.004 Arizona

A. PR 00-038 Purchase of Property by Representative Payees on Behalf of Minors

DATE: June 16, 1999

1. SYLLABUS

In Region IX (San Francisco), the States of California, Arizona, Hawaii and Nevada, and the Pacific Trust Territories: American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands, have no general preclusion against minors holding title to real or personal property.

2. OPINION

You have requested a legal opinion, on a state-by-state basis, addressing specific issues related to the purchase of property by representative payees on behalf of minors. The following opinion, preceded by a summary in the format of the opinion request, addresses the issues presented in the November 2, 1998 memorandum from the Associate Commissioner, Office of Program Benefits, appended to your memorandum of December 2, 1998.

OPINION

The questions include whether a state permits a minor to hold title to real property or personal property, such as an automobile; if so, whether there are restrictions as to the age of the minor or the types of property that can be held; whether there are specific requirements regarding how property should or must be titled to show the minor as the titleholder; and, if a state does not permit a minor to hold title, or does not permit property to be titled or registered in the name of a minor, what is the preferred method of titling the property to reflect or protect the minor's interest in the property and satisfy SSA's regulatory requirements?

Generally and historically, the right of minors to hold real and personal property has been recognized and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, see Oyama v. California, 332 U.S. 633, 68 S.Ct. 269 (1948), and that decision is still good law. The case law and statutes of the states in Region IX have recognized this right, primarily by implication. The general conclusion of this opinion is that minors generally can hold title, with some exceptions, but that other legal and practical concerns make it highly advisable for the property of minors to be held by trustees or other proper representatives. Specific issues with respect to how title can be held are discussed below. Since California has the most comprehensive body of law in this area, and often serves as a model for the less populous states in the Region, it is discussed first.

SUMMARY OF OPINION

Arizona:

Q: Does the State permit a minor to hold title to real property or personal property such as an automobile?

A: Here also, there is no general preclusion against minors holding title to real or personal property. Specific statutory and case law are discussed in the attached opinion.

Q: If, so, are there any restrictions as to the age of the minor or the types of property that can be held?

A: No. However, see discussion in California section, above, with respect to potential problems with minors holding title.

Q: Are there any specific requirements on how the property should/must be titled to show the minor as the titleholder?

A: No. However, see discussion in California section, above, with respect to potential problems with minors holding title.

Q: If a State does not permit a minor to hold title to property, or does not permit the property to be titled/registered in the minor's name, what is the preferred method(s) of titling the property to reflect or protect the minor's interest in the property and satisfy SSA's regulatory requirements?

A: Not generally applicable. However, see discussion in California section, above, with respect to potential problems with minors holding title.

Arizona: In Arizona, the age of majority is 18, A.R.S. §1215, and there is no general preclusion against a minor holding title to real or personal property. Here also, however, concerns similar to those set forth above with respect to California apply.

Arizona cases also have recognized, at least by implication, the property rights of minors. In Huish v. Lopez (1950) 70 Ariz. 201, 218 P.2d 727, the Supreme Court of Arizona found that a minor "was the owner" of the subject real property which had been sold by a relative acting as an agent on her behalf. 70 Ariz. at 203. Although, in that case, the court further found that the owner had ratified the acts of the agent upon attaining the age of majority, it also recognized the general right of minors to avoid contracts due to infancy.

Arizona statutes also are consistent with the general concept that minors can hold title to property. For example, A.R.S. § 42-18151 (B) provides that a tax lien that is sold "on real property of a minor..." is subject to redemption only in the manner provided for persons who are under no such disability. Similarly, A.R.S. § 42-18203 also references actions to foreclose the right of redemption with respect to liens sold "on real property of minors.... " A.R.S. § 6-432 authorizes the payment by a savings and loan institution directly to a minor "who i