You requested a legal opinion from each Regional Chief Counsel addressing specific
issues raised by the Associate Commissioner of the Office of Program Benefits (OPB)
related to the purchase of property by minors and by representative payees on behalf
of minors. Below is Region VII's response to the specific issues raised. In response
to the April 21, 1999 video conference call, we have revised our January 12, 1999
legal opinion to remove any reference to the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act.
1. Does the State permit a minor to hold title to real property or personal property
such as an automobile?
While there is no state statute directly on point, Iowa Code Ann. § 599.2 (West 1997)
provides that a minor is bound by contracts for necessities and "other" contracts,
unless the contract is properly disaffirmed within a "reasonable" time after he or
she attains the age of majority. The age of majority in Iowa is 18, unless the minor
is married. In that case, the age of majority is the date of the marriage. Iowa Code
Ann. § 599.1 (West 1997).
Case law indicates that a minor may hold title to real estate and execute deeds in
his own name. Reusch v. Sharer et. al., 241 Iowa 536, 41 N.W. 2d 651 (Iowa 1950); Commercial Savings Bank of Marion v. Balderston et al., 260 N.W. 728 (Iowa 1935); Stout v. Ruschke et. al., 202 N.W. 88 (Iowa 1925); Kramer v. Kramer, 27 N.W. 757 (Iowa 1886).
2. If so, are there any property restrictions as to age of the minor or the types
of property that can be held.
There is no indication that the type of property is restricted. Case law indicates
that a minor may hold legal title to land in trust and machinery. Stout, 202 N.W.
88 (1925); Des Moines Ins. Co. v. Mclntire, 68 N.W. 565 (Iowa 1896); Leacox v. Griffith, 40 N.W. 109 (Iowa 1888). However, minors do not possess the legal capacity to dispose
of their right of possession in realty, nor can their natural guardian do so without
authority from a proper court. Young v. Gammel, 4 Greene 207 (Iowa 1854).
There is apparently no restriction as to age. In Kramer, the minor was 12 years old.
As mentioned above, the age of majority is 18, unless the minor is married.
3. Are there any specific requirements on how the property should or must be held
to show the minor as the titleholder?
There is no requirement that the property must be titled in any specific manner.
4. If a State does not permit a minor to hold title to property, or does not permit
the property to be titled or 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.