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. The age of majority begins at 21. P.R. Laws Ann. tit.31, § 971 (1993). Minors
may squire the possession of things, but they require the assistance of their legal
representatives to exercise the fights in their favor which arise out of that possession.
P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 31, § 1446. Thus, minority only restricts the capacity of the
individual to act on his own. P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 31, § 82.
A minor may be emancipated at age 18 with the consent of his parents, or by court
order, for the purpose of governing himself or administering his property, P.R. Laws
Ann. tit. 31, §§ 911,912. Until he becomes 21, however, an emancipated minor cannot
contract any obligation exceeding the value of his income for one year, or encumber
or sell real property without the consent of a parent. P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 31, § 915.
The same is true for a minor emancipated by marriage. P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 31, § 931
Puerto Rico follows the doctrine of patria potestas which gives both parents the power
to hold as their own any property or acquisitions of unemancipated minor children.
P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 31, § 611. In the absence of judicial decree, the administration
of the property of children under patria potestas belongs to the parents. Id. Property or income donated or bequeathed for the education of an unemancipated minor
belongs to the minor, but parents shall have the administration of such funds, unless
the donors provide otherwise. P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 31, § 615. Patria potestas ends
with the death of the parents or child, through emancipation of the child, by adoption
of the child by another. P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 31 § 631, or by termination by the court
for misconduct. P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 31, § 634.
The exercise of the patria potestas does not authorize either parent to alienate or
lay an encumbrance upon a minor's real or personal property valued over $2,000 without
court authorization. T.31 § 616 The court usually appoints a tutor to defend the minor's
interests T.31 § 616. The tutor may not alienate or encumber real property, make contracts
or execute acts which require recording, or alienate personal property valued over
$1000 without permission from the court. § 786. Tutorship ends when the minor attains
21 years of age, is adopted, or otherwise emancipated. § 791
Case law indicates that an unemancipated minor may hold title to real property but
patria potestas confers the administration of the property to the parents. Gonzalez Iturreggui v. Gonzalez Olazabal, RE-92-96 (3/25/93); Ex parte Arsuaga 42 P.R.R. 108 (1931); Roig v. Secretary of the Treasury, 84 P.R.R. 141 (1964); Melendez v. Registrar, 58 P.R.R. 328 (1941).
2. Does the State place restrictions as to the age of the minor or the types of property
that can be held?
No. Statutory law places no restrictions on the age of the minor or the types of property
that can be held.
3. Are there any specific requirements to show how the property should or must be
titled to show the minor as owner?
There appear to be no specific requirements regarding title
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?