You asked us to determine whether minors are allowed to hold title to real or personal
property in the six states in our region, and, if so, whether there are any restrictions
on the age of the minor or the types of property that a minor could hold. You also
asked us to determine whether there are any specific requirements on how the property
should be titled to reflect the minor as the titleholder. We have concluded that in
Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin, minors can hold title to real or personal
property and that minors can be shown as the titleholder of such property. In Ohio,
a minor can hold title to real or personal property, but a minor can purchase and
own an automobile only if the minor's parent or guardian expressly authorizes that
purchase. In Minnesota, a minor can hold title to real or personal property, but a
state statute prohibits a minor from owning an automobile, except in certain circumstances
not likely to occur in the situation involving back SSI payments to a disabled child.
None of the states in our region impose any particular restrictions concerning the
age of the minor.
In a prior memorandum on this topic, ((See "SSI—Property of Minors," Memorandum to Gonzalez, Acting ARC-POS from HHS-OGC-V (Patsavos)
(June 17, 1994) (hereafter 1994 Mem.)), we cited general principles of common law
to conclude that, in our six states, a minor is capable of acquiring or taking title
to property, whether real estate or personal property. See 42 Am. Jur.2d Infants §§ 8, 61,103 (1969 & 1998 supp.). That general proposition
A minor may own real property in Indiana. See McCord v. Bright, 87 N.E. 654 (Ind. App. 1909). A minor may also own personal property. Shipley v. Smith, 70 N.E. 803 (Ind. 1904); Mitchell v. Campbell & Fetter Bank, 195 N.E.2d 489 (111. App. 1962). A minor may purchase an automobile. Bowling v. Sperry, 184 N.E.2d 901 (Ind. App. 1962). And in general, a minor may acquire property rights.
West's Indiana Law Encyclopedia Minors § 31 (1959, 1993 supp.).
Transfers Under The Uniform Transfers To Minors Act
In our prior memorandum, we observed that minors can take title to property as provided
in the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act ("UTMA") and the Uniform Gifts to Minors Act
("UGMA"). Except for Michigan, all our states have adopted a version of the UTMA.1/
Michigan has a version of the UGMA, Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 554.451 et seq.(West 1988).
All of these statutes allow a minor to receive certain forms of property, and have
it held by a custodian for the use and benefit of the minor.
In our prior memorandum, we suggested that the UTMA allowed the transfer of property
in which the minor already had an interest. See 1994 Mem. at 4 n.2. On further consideration, however, we believe that neither the
UTMA nor the UGMA allows transfers from the minor to himself or herself. The UTMA
allows transfers by gift. See 760 III. Comp. Stat. Ann. § 20/5; Ind. Code Ann. § 30-2-8.5-19; Minn. Stat. Ann.
§ 527.24; Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 1339.32; Wis. Stat. Ann. § 880.625. There may be transfers
authorized by will or trust. 760 III. Comp. Stat. Ann. 20/6; Ind. Code Ann. § 30-2-78.5-20;
Minn. Stat. Ann. § 527.25; Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 1339.32; Wis. Stat. Ann. § 880.63.
There may be transfers from other fiduciaries. 760 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 20/7; Ind.
Code Ann. § 30-2-8.5-21; Minn. Stat. Ann. § 527.26; Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 1339.32;
Wis. Stat. Ann. § 880.635.2/ And there may be transfers from other obligors. 760 Ill.
Comp. Stat. Ann. 20/8; Ind. Code Ann. § 30-2-8.5-22; Minn. Stat. Ann. § 527.27; Ohio
Rev. Code Ann. § 1339.32; Wis. Stat. Ann. § 880.64. We do not believe that a. person
may make a gift or transfer to himself or herself. In addition, a representative payee
would not appear to be making a gift or other covered transfer when he or she makes
a purchase with a minor's conserved SSI payments.3/ Therefore, we believe that the
LITMA would not apply to purchases made with a minor's conserved funds.
For these reasons, we believe that a minor may own and acquire property in the six
states in our region.
1/ See Illinois Uniform Transfers to Minors Act, 760 III. Comp. Stat. Ann. 20/1 et seq.
(West 1998); Indiana Uniform Transfers to Minors Act, Ind. Code Ann. § 30-2-8.5-1
et seq. (West 1994); Minnesota Uniform Transfers to Minors Act, Minn. Stat. Ann. §
527.21 et seq.; Ohio Transfers to Minors Act, Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 1339.31 et seq.;
Wisconsin Uniform Transfers to Minors Act, Wis. Stat. Ann. § 880.61 et seq. (West
2/ The comments to the UTMA establish that this provision can be used to cover a transfer
of the minor's own property by a legal representative. See Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (ULA) § 6 cmt. (West, Westlaw through Aug. 1997).
But a representative payee who holds an SSI recipient's funds is not the legal representative
of that recipient. Therefore, this provision does not appear to apply to the situation
faced by representative payees.
3/ The Ohio version of the UTMA makes it clear that any gift or transfer of property
to a minor must come from a person eighteen years of age or older. Ohio 1339.32.