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.