PR 07215.025 Michigan

A. PR 00-029 Request for Formal Legal Opinion Regarding the Purchase of Property by Representative Payees on Behalf of Minors

DATE: January 27, 1999

1. SYLLABUS

In Region V (Chicago), the States of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin allow minors to hold title to real or personal property and 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.

2. OPINION

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 remains valid.

Michigan

In Michigan, minors are capable of acquiring property like any other citizen. 17 Callaghan's Michigan Civil Jurisprudence Minors § 4 (1988, 1993 supp.). Minors may own and purchase real and personal property. See Boynton v. Wedgewood, 78 N.W.2d 134 (Mich. 1956); Gillmett v. Tourcott, 182 N.W. 128 (Mich. 1921); Lawrence v. Baxter, 267 N.W. 742 (Mich. 1936). And they may own automobiles. See Parks v. Pere Marquette Ry. Co., 23 N.W.2d 196 (Mich. 1946); Dortman v. Lester, 143 N.W.2d 130 (Mich. Ct. App. 1966); Semmens v. Floyd Rice Ford, Inc., 136 N.W.2d 704 (Mich. Ct. App. 1965).

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 f