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.