PR 07215.024 Massachusetts
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.
Massachusetts also permits a minor to hold title to certain types of personal property including corporate shares and motor vehicles. See M.G.L.A. 171 § 41 and M.G.L.A. 90 § 2A. Additionally, money deposited in a financial institution in the name of a minor may be considered his property. M.G.L.A. 167D § 7. There do not appear to be any requirements on how any of the above listed property is to be titled, other than noting the minor's name as owner. Nor do there appear to be any age restrictions.
Other portions of the statutory scheme indicate that minors may hold title to both personal and real property. In fact three entirely separate sections of the Massachusetts General Laws specifically refer to a minor's personal and real property. See M.G.L.A. 59 § 5, cl. (17), M.G.L.A. 201 § 41, and M.G.L.A. 203 § 18.
Massachusetts has also adopted the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act. M.G.L.A. 201A §1, et seq. As noted previously, 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". M.G.L.A. 201A § 11. 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". M.G.L.A. 201A § 9. 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 place any restrictions on age or type of property transferred.
In the case of a guardian appointment, Massachusetts law appears to indicate that a minor retains title to his property. While there is no case law directly addressing this issue, we have read the relevant statutes as allowing minors to hold property.
Under the Massachusetts Guardian statutes, a guardian's power extends only to the care and management of the minor's estate. M.G.L.A. 201 § 4. Thus, by its own terms, the guardian provision contemplates the continued existence of the minor's estate, and no transfer of title is effectuated by this appointment. Moreover, in order for a guardian to sell any of the minor's real property, he must secure a license from the court. M.G.L.A. 201 § 37 -and M.G.L.A. 202 § 21.1
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.