PR 07215.035 New York
A. PR 00-030 Purchase of Property by Representative Payees on Behalf of Minor Children-Memorandum of December 2, 1998
DATE: February 12, 1999
In Region II (New York), the States of New Jersey and New York, and the territories of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands permit a minor to hold title to both real and personal property.
You requested a legal opinion regarding the purchase of property by representative payees on behalf of minor children. Below is Region II's response for the States of New Jersey and New York, and the territories of Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands.
1. Does the State permit a minor to hold title to real or personal property?
Yes. Under New York law, there are no obstacles to a minor's owning any type of property. N.Y. Real Prop. Law § 10 (McKinney 1998) provides that a citizen of the United States is capable of holding real property within the state, and of taking the same by descent, devise or purchase. Since minors are citizens, logically they have the right to own property. However, N.Y. Real Prop. Law § 11 states that "A person other than a minor... seized of or entitled to an estate or interest in real property, may transfer such estate or interest." Thus a minor lacks the legal capacity to buy or sell assets in his own name.1/
Conveyances of a minor, while not void, are voidable at the election of the minor. Fulton Savings Bank of Kings Cty v. Downs, 148 N.Y.S.2d 556 (S.Ct. Suffolk Cry. 1956) (involving execution of a mortgage); Persico v. Guernsey, 220 N.Y.S. 689 (S.Ct Erie Cty.) (involving real property). An infant may also disaffirm a sale of chattels before majority. Casey. v. Kastel, 237 N.Y. 305 (1924) (purchase of stock). At age 18, the age of majority in New York State, a minor will gain unrestricted authority to control and dispose of property. New York Real Prop. Law § 1-2.9-a (McKinney 1998).
Case law indicates that a minor may acquire property fights, but he is not regarded as capable of managing his property. Stephenson v. Naumann, 195 N.Y.S. 768 (Sup. Ct. Kings Cnty. 1922), aff'd, 197 N.Y.S. 951 (1922).
2. Does the State place restrictions as to the age of the minor or the types of property that can be held?
No. Research showed no restrictions as to the type of property a minor could hold.
3. Are there any specific requirements to show how the property should or must be titled to show the minor as owner?
If the infant wishes to register title to real property, he must apply by his legally appointed guardian, trustee, committee, or conservator. N.Y. Real Prop. Law § 370.
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 of titling the property to reflect the minors interest in the property and satisfy SSA regulatory requirements?
1/There are two exceptions to this general rule. N.Y. Ins. Law § 3207 permits a child over age 14 years, 6 months to purchase insurance on his own life or for someone in whom he has an insurable interest. Also, N.Y. Banking Law § 134 places no age restriction on owning a bank account, or depositing or withdrawing funds from that account.