The Associate Commissioner for the Office of Program Benefits has requested our opinion
on whether or not minors may hold title to real or personal property. Specifically
she has requested whether there are any restrictions regarding the age of the minor,
the type of property that may be held, the specific method of titling the property,
and, in that case where a minor may not hold property in his own name, the preferred
method for titling property to reflect the minor's interest. For the reasons discussed
below, it is our opinion that Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode
Island and Vermont all allow a minor to hold title to both real and personal property.
While the laws of Connecticut do not specifically provide that a minor may hold title
to property, they do not prohibit a minor from holding title. However, in looking
at the overall statutory scheme, it is evident that ownership by minors of both real
and personal property is allowed in Connecticut. For example, there are several statutory
provisions governing the "estate of a minor." See C.G.S.A. §§ 45a-629 to 45a-638. Connecticut also has adopted the UTMA which, as previously
noted, allows for the transfer of any type of property to a minor who, upon such transfer,
becomes the legal owner of that property. See Id. at §§ 45a-557 to 45a-460b. The statutes also assume ownership by minors of personal
property of significant value (e.g., an automobile). In that regard, the Commissioner
of Motor Vehicles is prohibited from registering "any motor vehicle owned by any person
under sixteen years of age . . . [or] any motor vehicle owned by any person between
sixteen and eighteen years of age unless such person files proof of financial responsibility.
. ." Id. at § 14-14 (emphasis added). "Owner" is defined as "any person holding title" to
the vehicle. Id. at § 14-1. Therefore, it seems clear that Connecticut allows minors to hold title
to both real and personal property.
However, a minor's. estate in excess of $5,000 is not, for obvious reasons, directly
accessible by the child. C.G.S.A. § 45a631(a). Rather, the law requires the probate
court to appoint a guardian. Id. Even the parents of the child must seek to be appointed guardian of the minor's estate
before they may receive or use any of the child's property that is valued over $5,000.
Id. "A release given by both parents or by the parent who has legal custody of a minor
shall, if the amount does not exceed five thousand dollars in value, be valid and
binding upon the minor." Id. at § 45a-631(b). However, the appointment of a guardian does not divest the minor
of legal title. Interpreting a guardian provision substantially similar to its present
codification, the Supreme Court of Connecticut noted that a guardian only has an authority
over the minor's estate, "uncoupled with any interest."
Williams v. Cleaveland, 56 A. 850, 852 (Conn. 1904). "The legal title to both real and personal property
remain[s] with the ward." Id. Likewise, a parent, as natural guardian, is "entitled to neither the possession
nor control of his son's property, either at common law or by statute." Id. (citations omitted). Thus, in Connecticut it can be concluded that minors may hold
title to both real and personal property.
There does not appear to be any restrictions on the age in which title vests in the
minor. Nor does there appear to be any specific requirements on how the property is
to be titled to show the minor as titleholder.
1/A guardian may sell a minor's personal property without a license from the court
in order to pay debts. M.G.L.A. 201 § 37.