PR 07215.022 Maine
A. PR 00-031 Purchase of Property by Representative Payees on Behalf of Minor Children
DATE: February 18, 1999
In Region I (Boston), the States of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont all allow a minor to hold title to both real and personal property.
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.
Maine statutes clearly permit a minor to hold title to certain types of personal property including corporate shares, insurance policies, and motor vehicles. See 13-A M.R.S.A. §§ 909, 910; 24 M.R.S.A. § 2407, and 29-A M.R.S.A. § 352 respectively. Additionally, money deposited in a financial institution in the name of a minor is considered his property. 9-B M.R.S.A. § 427. There do not appear to be any specific requirements on how any of the above listed property is to be titled, other than noting the. minor's name as owner. In regards to corporate shares and bank accounts there are no documented age restrictions. However, in order for a minor to register a motor vehicle or contract for insurance, he must be at least 15 years of age. See 29-A M.R.S.A. § 352 and 24 M.R.S.A. § 2407.
While there are no such specific statutes involving real property, case law indicates that a minor has property rights in general. Therriault v. Breton, 95 A. 699 (1915). Additionally, examination of both Maine's adaptation of the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA) and the Maine Probate Code's section on Guardians demonstrates that a minor retains title in his property. Under the UTMA, the transferred property is "indefeasibly vested in the minor, but the custodian has all of the rights, powers, duties and authority provided in th[e] Act". 33 M.R.S.A. § 1662. This transfer is accomplished whenever the property is registered in the name of an adult or trust company "as custodian for (name of minor) under the Maine Uniform Transfer to Minors Act". 33 M.R.S.A. § 1660. Thus, as the property itself is vested in the minor, subject only to the a custodian's management for a finite period of years, it would appear that the minor still retains his title to the property. The UTMA does not appear to place any restrictions on age or type of property transferred.
Section 5-209 of Maine's Guardians of Minors statutes notes that a guardian "must take reasonable care of the ward's personal effects and commence protective proceedings if necessary to protect other property of the ward." 18-A M.R.S.A. § 5-209. This statement appears to indicate that even following the appointment of a guardian, the ward (or minor in this case), would still retain his own property. Moreover, the case of Pelletier v. Langlois, 130 Me. 486 (1931), reflects that this property may include real property, holding that a guardian Was not able to convey a ward's interest in land. There do not appear to be any specific age or titling requirements under the Guardian statutes.
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.